The Francis report – what will be its effect on internal NHS culture?

Further to my earlier blog [ which dealt with its effect on public perception of suing the NHS] on the Francis report on Stafford Hospital, there has also been much discussion on the impact of the report on internal NHS culture.

In his report, QC Robert Francis described the NHS as having a “culture of fear”. As part of his recommendations, Mr Francis called for a duty of openness. The NHS really does need to accept that it simply not okay for them to routinely deny responsibility for medical mistakes. Of course, genuine accidents do occur, but the growing number of medical negligence claims shows that many medical errors are not down to accidents, but to professional negligence.

Our medical negligence lawyers have seen for far too long, an almost knee-jerk denial from the NHS in the most  negligence claims – which is, to a significant degree, responsible for the subsequent massively increased legal bills. Rather than accept responsibility for negligence where there is clear medical evidence to that effect, this seems to be an inbuilt and deep-rooted fear within our health service of being frank about any failings in levels of medical care. It’s only when the NHS itself accepts that it’s not perfect and that mistakes can be made, that they can look to address the significant problems that exist – especially in certain failing hospitals.

Any reader of this blog will know that we are a big fan of the Dr Foster website – and it’s been clear for years, according to the rigorous clinical standards set by. excellent Dr Foster research unit based at University College in London, that certain hospitals insistently fail to adopt good practice – and they are the ones who have a much lower level of patient care, often produce a significantly higher number of facilities and prompt a vastly disproportionate number of medical negligence compensation claims made against them.

Let’s hope, therefore, that there is a seismic shift in NHS culture, and a growing acceptance that openness about levels of patient care is desirable and that staff whistle blowing should encouraged rather than penalised.

Perhaps that will lead to a reduction in the unnecessary number of medical errors that continue to take place in British hospitals on a daily basis.