Mr Cameron told MPs that the legacy the government would seek to secure in response to the findings of the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust public inquiry was an ‘NHS safe for everyone’.
He set out plans to make it easier for failings in care to trigger dismissal of NHS managers, called for the GMC to explain why failings in Mid Staffordshire had not led to doctors being struck off, and pledged to create a chief inspector of hospitals to monitor standards of care.
NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh has also been asked to conduct an immediate investigation into care at the hospitals with the highest mortality rates.
The prime minister said three fundamental problems were highlighted in the report by Robert Francis QC:
- a focus on finance and figures at the expense of patient care.
- the attitude that patient care was always someone else’s problem.
- defensiveness and complacency.
Mr Cameron said a ‘manifest failure to act on data available’ and a finding that ‘managers were suppressing inconvenient facts in favour of looking for comfort in positive information’ were among the most disturbing messages to emerge from the report.
The prime minister said it was not right that failures in care rarely carried the same consequences for NHS leaders as financial failures.
He said: ‘We will create a single failure regime where the suspension of the Board can be triggered by failures in care, as well as failures in finance.’
Patients’ voices were ignored as poor care continued at Mid Staffordshire, he added.
The friends and family test being rolled out across the NHS from April, which will be extended to primary care at a later date, will help to address this, Mr Cameron said.
Findings from the tests would be published and NHS boards would be ‘held to account for their response’, he pledged.
‘Put simply, where a significant proportion of patients or staff raise serious concerns about what is happening in a hospital, immediate inspection will result and suspension of the hospital board may well follow.’
He said the GMC and the Nursing and Midwifery Council, which regulates nurses, ‘need to explain why so far no one has been struck off’.
‘So the secretary of state for health has today invited them to explain what steps they will take to strengthen their systems of accountability in the light of this report,’ he said.
‘And we will ask the Law Commission to advise on sweeping away the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s outdated and inflexible decision-making processes.’
Mr Cameron added: ‘What makes our NHS special is a very simple principle of British life: That the moment you’re injured or fall ill, the moment something happens to someone you love, you know that whoever you are, wherever you’re from, whatever’s wrong, however much you’ve got in the bank, there’s a place you can go where people will look after you and do their best to make things right again. The shocking truth is that this precious principle of British life was broken.’
The government will publish a full response to the Francis report's 290 recommendations in March.