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NHS chief pledges to repair damage

The head of the NHS Confederation has pledged a relentless drive to repair damage to public confidence in the health service on what he called a "sad and shameful day" for the organisation.

Mike Farrar, chief executive of the membership body for health service commissioning organisations, said the Francis report was a much-needed ward-to-Whitehall assessment of care failures that had been "hard-hitting but fair".

He spoke after health campaigners said the report, if implemented, would represent "the biggest advance in patient safety and patients' rights in the history of the NHS".

He said: "We owe it to every patient, family member and carer to commit to making sure these sorts of tragedies do not happen again.

"It is up to all of us in the NHS to take responsibility for putting things right. We cannot externalise responsibility for standards of care to Government, politicians or regulators or anybody else."

Mr Farrar added: "Everyone in the NHS must now consider these recommendations and find ways of acting on them.

"There will of course be practicalities, including cost effectiveness and whether all recommendations do what they say on the tin.

"But let's not lose sight of the big picture.

"This is an opportunity to make the NHS safer, more compassionate and fully accountable to the people it serves."

A legal obligation for medical staff to own up to mistakes and be open with families of patients should be implemented by the Government as part of a "new dawn" of transparency and openness in the public health body, the Action Against Medical Accidents (AvMA) said.

The report into standards by Robert Francis QC, sparked by failures at the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, contains a raft of measures to guarantee openness, transparency and learning, according to AvMA chief executive Peter Walsh.

"The Government must now accept the recommendation for a legal duty of candour which would represent the biggest advance in patient safety and patients' rights in the history of the NHS," he said.

"So far they have fiercely resisted this.

"The duty of candour, together with other recommendations to ensure full openness and transparency represent a new dawn for the NHS."

Emma Jones, from law firm Leigh Day, who claims to represent 120 people and their families who suffered at Stafford General Hospital, said politicians and NHS management must make changes to make sure patients are put first.

"The patient must be the first priority in all that the NHS does," she said.

"Patients must receive effective services from caring, compassionate and committed staff working in a common culture, and must be protected from avoidable harm and any deprivation of their basic human rights.

"The measures laid out by Robert Francis of zero tolerance, closing hospitals where there are poor standards of care, and a greater focus on compassion in nursing are hopefully measures which the Government will now implement before anything like this can happen again.

"It must take place quickly to prevent the abuse, which we as lawyers are still witnessing. The NHS needs urgent reform to regain its position as a healthcare system which we can all be proud of."

Deb Hazeldine, 43, from Stafford, whose mother, Ellen Linstead, died at Stafford Hospital in December 2006, called for those responsible for the appalling care she received to be held accountable.

Her mother, who was diagnosed with bone cancer in March 2006, was admitted to Stafford Hospital for physiotherapy having suffered a fall. She contracted the superbug Clostridium difficile (C diff) while at the hospital.

"One of the concerns that I have got is that it appears that David Cameron was calling for accountability from today. Does that mean that my mum is worthless, that my mum doesn't mean anything?" she said.

"My mum died horrifically and hundreds of other people as well - we should have accountability for everybody who has been failed."

Sonia Burnhill, 70, from Stafford, whose husband, Peter Burnhill, a former head of art and design at Stafford College, died in 2007 aged 84 after receiving poor treatment at Stafford Hospital, described the Francis report as "promising".

"It was chaos really," she said of her husband's care. "One day I came into the hospital in the morning and found his door shut tight and I thought 'That is funny'. I went in and got such a shock - on the bed was a dead man with no belongings and nobody around. They had moved my husband upstairs.

"They could have put a note on the door saying 'Do not enter' or something."

Union Unite also called for NHS chief Sir David Nicholson's resignation, saying the report made his position "untenable".

Rachael Maskell, national officer for health at the union, said: "Sir David Nicholson, who has thrown down the so-called Nicholson challenge of 20 billion cuts, is not the person to lead the NHS into the world of patient-focused care as outlined by Robert Francis.

"A complete overhaul of dysfunctional management in the NHS needs to happen as a matter of urgency and the first person out the door should be Sir David Nicholson, chief executive of the NHS Commissioning Board - perhaps, the most powerful person in the coalition's new NHS.

"In 2005, he was the regional NHS official who had the oversight of Mid-Staffs when the clinical failures were taking place. Later, as a NHS chief executive, he had accountability as to how the NHS responded as the scandal unfolded.

"The words 'buck', 'stopping' and 'here' have a certain resonance. The recommendations of the Francis Report make his position untenable."

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