Shaun Lintern addresses some of the myths that surround the scandal of poor care at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust.
There were 400-1,200 excess deaths over three years
It is often reported there were between 400 and 1,200 excess deaths at the Mid Staffordshire Trust between 2005 and 2008. This estimate is regularly attributed to the Healthcare Commission and its report on the trust published in March 2009.
In fact the figure never appeared in the HCC’s final report but was contained in a draft and was removed by the HCC chairman Sir Ian Kennedy following concerns raised by former Monitor executive chair Bill Moyes and then health secretary Alan Johnson. Sir Ian denied he was put under pressure to remove the numbers.
The figures were leaked to the press ahead of the report and have been repeatedly quoted ever since. In his first inquiry into the Mid Staffordshire scandal Robert Francis QC found the actual number of excess deaths between 2005 and 2008 was 492 and between 1996 and 2008 it was 1,197.
No one knew about the poor care
A number of staff working at the Mid Staffordshire Trust did attempt to raise concerns about standards of poor care but were either ignored or in some cases actively threatened.
The public inquiry heard evidence from accident and emergency nurse Helene Donnelly who spoke out in October 2007 and was told by fellow nurses to “watch her back” after she spoke out. She became so frightened she wouldn’t walk to her car at night.
Chris Turner, a junior doctor in A&E in 2007, described the A&E dept as “an absolute disaster” and said it was “immune to the sound of pain”. He repeatedly raised issues .with the trust’s management and eventually documented his concerns to the West Midlands postgraduate dean Elizabeth Hughes but she took no action, the inquiry heard.
Consultant physician Peter Daggett repeatedly raised concerns within the trust over many years but was ignored by managers. He never took his concerns outside the trust.
Consultant gastroenterologist Pradip Singh raised concerns over a number of years and was temporarily suspended. He told the inquiry he feared speaking up and had to consider his own family and mortgage.
Poor care was confined to the emergency department
The poor care at Mid Staffordshire Trust was not confined to the hospital’s emergency department.
While emergency admissions were at the centre of the crisis due to the accident and emergency being chronically short staffed there were complaints of poor standards of care on wards across the trust.
Complaints were made about Stafford Hospital’s emergency assessment unit and wards 7, 8, 10, 11 and 12. There were also some complaints about the trust’s second nearby site at Cannock Chase Hospital.
The trust’s general surgery department was heavily criticised by the Royal College of Surgeons in 2007 and 2009. The RCS described the department as “inadequate, unsafe and at times frankly dangerous”.
There were no problems before 2005
Problems at the Mid Staffordshire did not start in 2005.
The public inquiry under Robert Francis QC uncovered numerous potential warning signs missed by the NHS dating back many years.
Among them was a report by the Commission for Health Improvement in 2002 which raised fears about the hospital’s lack of governance, poor incident reporting and bad culture. Despite the West Midlands Strategic Health Authority knowing about this report no action had been taken to tackle the issues by 2004.
There were 164 witnesses
Reports have incorrectly said the inquiry heard from 164 witnesses. In total Robert Francis heard oral evidence from 181 witnesses with a number of other statements read into the record to be considered by him later.
In total the inquiry sat for 139 days at the offices of Stafford Borough Council’s headquarters between November 2010 and December 2011.
Sir Robert Francis chaired the inquiry
Robert Francis has incorrectly been described as a “sir”.
He is a QC and has practised as a barrister since 1973. He has appeared at the Bristol Royal Infirmary Inquiry, the Royal Liverpool Children’s Inquiry, and the Neale Inquiry. He has also chaired three homicide inquiries into the care and treatment of mentally ill patients.