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Jeremy Hunt: message to NHS staff one year on from Francis Report

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Secretary of State for Health on the changing culture in our hospitals following the Francis Report into Mid Staffordshire.

The Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP

One year ago, the Francis report on the shocking and tragic events at Mid Staffs was published.

I know the reason so many of you choose to work in the NHS is because you want everyone facing a horrible illness to be guaranteed safe and kind care. And that’s exactly what the vast majority of NHS care is: a world class service for us and our families when we need it the most. But the lesson of Mid Staffs is that the system needs to be more honest more quickly where things do go wrong.

And that is just what we’ve seen in the year since Francis. There are encouraging signs that you feel more free to speak out about things that concern you, with the number of calls from hospital staff to the CQC’s whistleblower helpline up 20% in the last year.

Honesty and openness matters, but alone it is not enough. Sorting out problems quickly when they are reported matters even more. And that is exactly what has been happening in the past year. Take the number of nurses - something that many of you have flagged as an issue because it’s obviously harder to give patients the time they need if your ward is short-staffed. Sadly, some hospitals - including Mid Staffs - have cut costs in the past by scrimping on nurse numbers. But in the past year there has been a real change, with 2400 more hospital nurses recruited across the country. I hope some of you have started to notice a difference on the wards where you work, and are finding you have more time to spend with your patients.

As you probably know, from this year, we will go even further, asking all hospitals to publish monthly staffing ratios on a ward-by-ward basis, so that shortages come to light quickly, you face less pressure and your patients are re-assured. Nurse training is also vital - so from September, student nurses will be asked to do up to a year of practical training in basic care before they turn to the textbooks. That way you can be sure you are being joined by recruits willing to roll up their sleeves and help give your patients the standards of care you want to.

Of course, it takes time to change culture, and there is much, much more to do. But I am encouraged by the massive commitment I have seen to making Francis a turning point in our NHS. Time and again you tell me that the changes Francis called for all go with the grain of the values that attracted you into the NHS in the first place. I know that the last year has been difficult and how busy and stressful it can be on the frontline. Thank you to everyone for your amazing efforts to make our hospitals safer and more compassionate.

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Published 10 February 2014