A public inquiry into regulators' failure to prevent routine neglect at a scandal-hit NHS hospital must lead to a more "patient-centred" health service, a body representing NHS managers has urged.
The head of the NHS Confederation said Wednesday's publication of a report into Stafford Hospital would rightly expose failings which led to what a previous independent inquiry described as "appalling" standards of care.
The confederation's chief executive, Mike Farrar, pledged that NHS leaders would respond positively to the report and work to change the culture of the NHS. Predicting that the release of the report would be "one of the darkest days" in the history of the NHS, Mr Farrar acknowledged that changes needed to be made to make patient feedback easier and give the public a clearer picture of how local services were performing.
He said: "Our failings in Mid Staffordshire will be laid bare - and rightly so. The people in charge of running our health services should rightly be held to account when they fail to act in the interests of patients."
But Mr Farrar warned: "What we don't want is a simplistic blame game, excessive inspection or micromanagement. These are false gods that externalise problems rather than putting responsibility where it belongs - in the boardroom and on the front line. They suck up resources and encourage tick-box responses, not real culture change."
It is understood the inquiry chairman, Robert Francis QC, will recommend wide-ranging reforms of the NHS. The £11 million review of what went wrong at Stafford Hospital between January 2005 and March 2009 will suggest hospitals that cover up mistakes by doctors and poor treatment of patients should face fines and possible closure, it has been reported.
A separate highly critical report by the Healthcare Commission in 2009 revealed a catalogue of failings at the trust and said it had put patients at risk. Between 400 and 1,200 more people died than would have been expected in a three-year period from 2005 to 2008, the commission said. In February 2010, an independent inquiry into events at the trust found it had "routinely neglected patients".
The latest public inquiry, announced by then health secretary Andrew Lansley in June 2010, was set up to examine the commissioning, supervisory and regulatory organisations in relation to their monitoring role at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust between January 2005 and March 2009. The inquiry was asked to look at why the serious problems at the trust were not identified and acted on sooner, and to identify important lessons for the future of patient care.
Stafford-based campaign group Cure the NHS, which includes relatives of patients affected by poor care and other community members, successfully lobbied the coalition Government for a full public inquiry.
Speaking ahead of its publication, Cure the NHS member Ken Lownds said: "We believe that very many senior civil servants and bureaucrats in all of the health regulators should have apologised and resigned a long time ago. In the blueprint for a new NHS which we submitted to the inquiry, we set out how the NHS should now begin to pursue 'zero harm' as its commitment to every patient it treats. We sincerely hope that Robert Francis will have made that one of his key recommendations."