Implementing recommendations from the report into Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust public inquiry will not add to the bureaucracy faced by NHS managers, the health secretary has said.
Speaking at the King’s Fund on Wednesday, Mr Hunt said he was waiting for inquiry chair Robert Francis QC’s report before taking any decisions on the statutory regulation of managers.
However, he added: “In terms of my general direction of travel I want to be clear I think managers already face a bureaucratic burden that’s much too high. One of the problems that seems to have emerged from [the first Francis report] was bureaucracy was a cause. We have got to be very careful in finding a solution that we don’t make the problem worse.
He suggested existing bureaucratic requirements could be removed if there were new requirements emerging from Francis.
“Freeing up people’s time has to be part of the solution,” he added.
Mr Hunt’s comments followed a speech to the think tank’s annual conference. In the speech he said managers needed to see their responsibility as being about quality as much as it was finance.
“Most managers get this; their passion for high standards of care is why they have chosen to become managers in the health care sector,” he said.
“But too many do not. Buried in spreadsheets, they become blind to the realities of what’s happening day-on-day inside their organisations.”
He said accountability for failures in quality should “stretch to the top”, including to owners and boards of companies providing health and care services, and the government would be setting out detailed plans in its response to a report into the abuse suffered by patients at Winterbourne View hospital in the coming weeks.
Mr Hunt also formally announced his ambition to create an “Ofsted” style rating system for hospitals and care homes and confirmed he had commissioned the Nuffield Trust to look at how this could be done.
He said he would study the recommendations of this review alongside the Francis report before announcing to Parliament how he would resolve the “issue” of the need for an independent performance assessment that drives improvement.
Asked how he would ensure staff were working in a supportive culture, Mr Hunt said he did not want to “go down the road of quick fixes”.
He added: “[In] the next two years a lot of the effort will be spent on making sure information is widely available to the public because once that’s the case a lot of these problems [of quality of care] will be self-correcting. Because of [managers’ and clinicians’] professional pride I don’t think I will need to do anything at all. We will then need to think about what we do about those places where poor culture is so entrenched.”