Stafford Hospital has graced the headlines for all the wrong reasons many times over the last few years. The Healthcare commission revealed a catalogue of errors and appalling standards that put patients at risk. The most basic elements of care were sadly neglected, calls for help to use the bathroom were ignored and patients were left lying in soiled bedding and sitting on commodes for hours. Some patients were left unwashed for up to a month. Food and drink was left out of reach of patients who had to rely on family members for assistance. Pain relief was provided late or not at all and patients were discharged inappropriately soon. Hygiene standards in particular were appalling with used dressings being left in public areas and families taking it upon themselves to clean toilets for fear of infection.
As a result of an £11million public enquiry into these allegations, wide ranging reforms of the NHS are to be recommended to focus concerns on the needs of patients. For instance, there are calls for hospitals that cover up mistakes to be fined and to face possible closure. It is thought the culture of cost-cutting and performance management led to patients being treated as numbers not people.
For those bringing claims against the NHS for clinical negligence this would mean that treating clinicians involved would be under a “duty of candour” leading to greater openness and admission of mistakes. This can only be a positive step for those people who feel let down by their medical care providers.
Health secretary, Jeremy Hunt has also called for a system of patient feed back whereby each and every patient would be asked whether they would recommend the care they received to family or friends.