UK & World News
Health Secretary: Coasting Hospitals Can Kill
Too many hospitals are coasting and settling for minimum standards that could lead to failure and tragedy, the Health Secretary will warn later.
Jeremy Hunt is to say that many middle-of-the-road hospitals are "hitting targets but missing the point".
During a speech at the Nuffield Trust's health policy conference in Dorking, Surrey, Mr Hunt will warn hospital bosses about the dangers of simply aiming for "not coming last".
Average hospitals which meet national targets but are not doing anything to improve their services are "not good enough", he will add.
He is expected to say: "Imagine for a moment that the main objective for our Olympic athletes was not to win but to 'not come last'. How many gold medals would we have won then?
"It sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? But today I want to suggest that too much of the NHS is focused on doing just that.
"Not on achieving world-class levels of excellence - the gold medals of healthcare - but meeting minimum standards, the equivalent of 'not coming last'.
"Coasting can kill. Not straight away, but over time as complacency sets in, organisations look inwards, standards drop and then, suddenly, something gives.
"The lesson of Mid Staffs is surely that we need to understand why they fail in the first place - which means tackling mediocrity and low expectations before they turn into failure and tragedy."
He is expected to add: "There are plenty of other hospitals where their staff friends and family scores are about the same today as they were in 2009.
"They're hitting their targets, they're not failing but, on the basis of this indicator anyway, they're standing still.
"Hospitals must not be allowed to cruise along, hitting the targets but missing the point."
Labour's shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said: "It's no good for ministers to blame hospitals and staff when it is they who have thrown the whole system into chaos with a huge re-organisation, which has siphoned £3bn out of front-line care.
"Hospitals across England are on a knife-edge and they need a Government that provides support rather than points the finger."
Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: "Front-line staff want to work in excellent hospitals, but they need the proper support to be able to do this."