Department of Health and Social Care
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News Release issued by the COI News Distribution Service on 21 July 2009

Learning from the failings identified at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, Health Secretary Andy Burnham today announced a package of measures to tackle exceptional failures in Foundation Trusts.

As part of that package, the Health Secretary has set up a further, independent, inquiry chaired by Robert Francis QC to hear evidence from patients and families – building on the reports to date and the Independent Clinical Reviews underway - and identify lessons for the future.

Relevant staff at the Trust, including former managers, will be asked to give evidence to the inquiry and we expect both current and former NHS staff to co-operate. If the Chair considers that it is necessary to have the power to require witnesses to attend, the Secretary of State has the power to convert this into an inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005.

The other measures in the package include:

Working closely with Monitor to appoint a new Chair, Sir Stephen Moss and new Chief Executive Antony Sumara who have the skills and experience to transform services at Stafford Hospital as a matter of urgency;

· Asking Dr David Colin-Thome to support and advise the Primary Care Trust to ensure they are implementing all the recommendations from his report and working with the local community to shape the future of the Trust; and

· Consulting on changes that will enable Monitor, the foundation trust regulator, to ‘de-authorise’ a foundation trust where the trust is failing to meet the high standards rightly expected of an organisation afforded FT status.

These measures help to address concerns arising from the Care Quality Commission’s three-month stock take report on Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust, also published today.

Visiting the hospital today along with health minister Mike O’Brien, Andy Burnham said:

“Our overriding priority is to ensure that patients and the public have access to high quality healthcare at Stafford Hospital. The new leadership team are key to building on the progress made and driving forward further, faster improvements.

“The hospital and Primary Care Trust must listen to patients and local people and involve them in shaping the future of the hospital. This new independent inquiry will give patients and their families the opportunity to present their evidence and ensure that any other lessons are learned without unduly distracting the new management and staff at the hospital from improving services for patients today.

“Together these measures will help the hospital improve more quickly and ensure that patients and people in Stafford can have confidence in their local hospital.”

In a proposed change to the law, which will be consulted on over the summer, the Secretary of State will be able to ask Monitor to remove foundation trust status from a hospital where it has failed and where this is in the best interests of patients and the public. In these circumstances, if Monitor disagrees with the approach suggested by Ministers, Monitor will be obliged to justify this position publicly.

Andy Burnham added:

“The overwhelming majority of foundation trust hospitals are high performing, providing patients with the highest quality of care. But their status must always be seen as a privilege and not a one-way ticket. Foundation trusts should not retain their freedoms where they are clearly failing their patients and where a loss of public confidence has occurred.

“In the rare circumstances where this is not the case, I want to ensure we have the powers necessary to take robust action to protect patients and the public. The failings at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust exposed a need for changes to the current regulations and the powers I am proposing will ensure that we can intervene in such cases.

“These changes strike the right balance between ensuring fundamental failure is addressed, maintaining the highest standards and protecting the significant benefits of Foundation Trusts.”

A consultation on the proposed amendments to foundation trust legislation will be published in the next few days.

Notes to Editors

The package of measures was set out in a Written Ministerial Statement to Parliament today. The WMS can be found at terms of reference of the inquiry will be: To investigate any individual case relating to the care provided by Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust between 2005 and 2008 that, in its opinion, causes concern and to the extent that it considers appropriate; In the light of such investigation, to consider whether any additional lessons are to be learned beyond those identified by the inquiries conducted by the Healthcare Commission, Professor Alberti and Dr Colin-Thome; and, if so, To consider what additional action is necessary for the new hospital management to ensure the Trust is delivering a sustainably good service to its local population. To ensure the new management and staff at the hospital are not unduly distracted from delivering the improvements already identified as necessary, the Inquiry is to report to the Secretary of State by the end of 2009. The Chair will decide the precise details of how the inquiry will be conducted. The Care Quality Commission’s three month stock take follows the Healthcare Commission’s report on 17 March 09 on their investigation into Mid Staffordshire FT. These reports can be found at response to the Healthcare Commission’s report into the emergency care provided by the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust between 2005 and 2008, the then Secretary of State commissioned two reviews

· Professor Sir George Alberti looked at the hospital’s procedures for emergency admissions and treatment and its progress against the recommendations in the Healthcare Commission’s report.

· Dr David Colin-Thome (National Clinical Director for Primary Care) looked into how the commissioning and performance management system failed to expose what was happening in the hospital.

For further information contact the Department of Health press office on: 0207 210 5221.


Department of Health
Phone: 020 7210 5221