20 November 2013
The Government has outlined reforms for the NHS in a response to the Francis Report, consisting of a series of measures to be implemented in hospitals nationwide.
Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt has called for a healthcare system that ‘[hears] the patient, seeing everything from their perspective [and] not the system’s interests’, adding that the measures set out in the response will address and attempt to implement greater transparency, openness and accountability in the event of future failures.
According to Hunt, the reforms aim to change culture, prevent problems, detect problems quickly, take action promptly and ensure robust accountability and staff training and motivation.
Commenting on the Government’s response to the Francis Report, Head of Policy (NFP) at ICSA, Louise Thomson told Governance & Compliance: ‘The boardroom is not meant to be a comfortable place, and the government’s response to Francis has made the boardroom of a care provider a little more uncomfortable.
‘The suite of legal sanctions being introduced to aid the change of culture in the NHS and the emphasis on making those responsible for poor care more accountable suggests that the role of the governance professional has become even more pivotal to the work of the board. From undertaking due diligence on potential directors, ensuring appropriate induction and ongoing training are delivered, providing high quality information to the board and facilitating exposure to what’s happening on wards, the governance professional will be central to the assurance system in place in each organisation.
‘To counter the possibility of much needed good and talented people being put off from serving on such boards because of criminal sanctions, directors will have to be supported by a professional and capable governance expert.’
Cathy James, CEO of Whistleblowing Charity Public Concern at Work, commented: ‘[The] proposals do nothing to encourage a better culture in our public services. Applying further sanctions for hospitals will continue to fuel a blame culture in the NHS where people are compelled to cover up mistakes for fear of the fault that will be attributed. Making patient neglect a criminal offence is another example of playing the blame game which will only encourage people to surreptitiously sweep significant errors under the carpet.
‘We should not be using punitive means to force a culture of honesty, rather we ought to look at why people do not do the right thing and how we create a culture where dissent is encouraged, which does not focus on punishing mistakes but rather on honest accountability.’