NHS chiefs ‘wanted Stafford Hospital probe cut short’

NHS bosses at the heart of Government and across the West Midlands wanted the investigation into Stafford Hospital cut short it has emerged.

The public inquiry into the scandal of poor care at the trust has been told how the chief executive of the NHS, David Nicholson, urged the Healthcare Commission not to listen too closely to the concerns of Cure the NHS.

In May 2008 Mr Nicholson, once the boss of the former Staffordshire and Shropshire Health Authority, described the campaign group as a lobby group rather than representing real patient concerns.

The inquiry also heard Dr Bill Moyes, the chairman of the Foundation Trust regulator Monitor wrote to the HCC chief executive Anna Walker in September 2008 saying the investigation should be cut short.

In October Peter Shanahan the acting chief executive of the West Midlands Strategic Health Authority also tried to have the investigation cut short because it was “dragging the hospital’s reputation down.”

Yesterday, Nigel Ellis, head of investigations at the Healthcare Commission told the inquiry the watchdog resisted the attempts to reduce the investigation.

He said: “What I did see, throughout the investigation, was a very strong message given to us, that we should desist and that we should stop at an earlier point, which I simply don’t agree was the right thing to do. So we didn’t do it.

“There was every chance if we’d have stopped the investigation early and not completed it fully, that these lessons would not have been learnt. I think that’s very likely.”

He added that some of the criticism of the Healthcare Commission was defensive and that the NHS had a tendency to want to “manage” bad news rather than let its message be heard.

Mr Ellis said there was no evidence of any external pressure on the HCC to remove the estimated deaths figure of between 400-1,200 patients from a draft report. The figure was eventually leaked to a national newspaper.

Mr Ellis warned that the Care Quality Commission, the new NHS watchdog, does not carry out investigations and he warned it may not be able to spot similar problems like Stafford Hospital now.

Mr Ellis admitted that the HCC, missed warning signs at the hospital before launching its investigation in 2008. He said NHS organisations missed what was happening at the hospital but that managers at the trust also hid the true realities.

He said the hospital never fully accepted the issues it was facing which was one reason why the HCC decided to investigate.

Read more: Express & Star article

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