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'Patient safety officers' urged

There should be a network of "patient safety officers" across the health service to ensure that poor standards of care witnessed at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust are not brushed under the carpet, a union said.

Unite said that patients, families and staff, who are worried about raising concerns of poor patient care through conventional channels, should be able to go in confidence to an independent officer.

Patient safety officers should be in place at all NHS organisations, a spokesman said.

The union is also calling for a unit with a dedicated hotline for whistleblowers.

Unite's head of health Rachael Maskell said: "What the Francis Report into the terrible events at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust is expected to reveal is a rampant culture of fear, with staff cowed into not reporting abuses by a dysfunctional management.

"We believe that Mid Staffs is not unique and that the culture of bullying exists across the NHS - and poor morale leads to poor productivity.

"We want to introduce an enabling culture where those staff with concerns can go to an independent patient safety officer who has the power to investigate them and then, if their recommendations go unheeded, to have statutory powers to enforce improvements, such as a programme of comprehensive training or organisational changes.

"Unite is prepared to play its part in calling for the introduction of a patient safety officer at every local trust, clinical commissioning group, and NHS provider and banish a culture of fear forever.

"Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said that he wants patients treated as human beings, and not as numbers - now he has the opportunity to make this aspiration a reality."

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