Robert Francis QC, chairman of the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust public inquiry, has told HSJ he believes the government’s actions mean any future “Mid Staffs” would be detected earlier.
The barrister, who led investigations into the trust over the past four years, has given his approval to the government’s final response but also warned the situation needed to be kept under review.
In an HSJ interview he appeared relaxed over the government’s decision not to implement all of his recommendations, suggesting it was legitimate his intentions were achieved in different ways.
Mr Francis said it was impossible to prevent mistakes from happening in healthcare, saying: “The landscape has significantly changed since these events. These measures would not have necessarily stopped a Mid Staffs from beginning to happen but it would have been detected much more quickly.”
He said the NHS had become “much more systematised when things go wrong” and a “broad approach” rather than single measures was required to prevent future scandals.
On the decision by the government to reject his calls for a duty of candour to be applied to individuals and criminal law protection for whistleblowers, Mr Francis said: “I think the way in which people are encouraged to be candid is through the leadership in their organisations.
“The one area that needs to be looked at quite carefully is around the financial penalty on trusts. That will incentivise trusts to encourage employers to tell them what they know.
“The best guarantee of protecting employees is for their board and leaders to protect them rather than some police force that comes in six months after the event.”
He said he believed it was right for organisations to face prosecution in cases where patients were neglected or abused but said the government’s response to his recommendations needed to be kept under review.
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Francis: future Mid Staffs would be detected earlier