“Appalling” standards in leadership and management at an NHS trust has caused needless deaths, it has been revealed.
The Healthcare Commission found there was a series of failings at the Mid Staffordshire NHS trust including low staffing levels, inadequate nursing, lack of equipment, lack of leadership, poor training and ineffective systems for identifying when things went wrong.
Receptionists, who weren’t qualified, were assessing the priority for care of patients in accident and emergency (A&E) wards, the report found.
The investigation, launched in March 2008, concluded that these problems put patients at serious risks causing some people to die as a result. The trust stood out statistically in terms of the high death rates of patients admitted as emergencies, which led to the commission’s investigation.
Sir Ian Kennedy, the commission’s chairman, said: “This is a story of appalling standards of care and chaotic systems for looking after patients. There were inadequacies at almost every stage in the care of emergency patients. There is no doubt that patients will have suffered and some of them will have died as a result.
“The investigation found there were too few doctors and nurses, vital equipment was not available when needed, patients did not receive the care they deserved, and the trust had no systems in place to spot when things were going wrong.”
Health secretary Alan Johnson has apologised on behalf of the government and the NHS to patients and their families who suffered because of the poor standards of care at Stafford Hospital.
He said: “There was a complete failure of management to address serious problems and monitor performance. This led to a totally unacceptable failure to treat emergency patients safely and with dignity.”
The trust said it had now improved the way it assessed patients arriving in A&E and has increased the number of doctors and nurses.
Eric Morton, chief executive of the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, said: “As an NHS foundation trust, we have made significant changes in a very short period of time and put in place new management, effective governance structures and made operational system changes to address the key issues of accountability, staffing levels and staff training.”
He admitted these changes were still “ongoing”, however.