One year on from the Francis Report, has anything changed?
Friday, February 7, 2014
It is one year since Robert Francis published his report into the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust. In his damning verdict he said that there had been “failings at every level”. It was a report regularly referred to as a turning point in the health service. Has anything changed in the NHS? Have lessons been learned? The Nuffield Trust’s The Francis Report: One Year On has published its findings on whistleblowing, staff and financial pressures.
Francis, in the Nuffield report says: “The vast majority of front-line staff, who are consistently hard-working, conscientious and compassionate, have to understand that criticism of poor and unacceptable practice is not aimed at them but is part of a struggle to support everything they stand for”.
The Nuffield report says that before Francis, candour was a term unfamiliar to many staff. Some of the trusts surveyed for the Nuffield report said they had refreshed their whistleblowing policy, while others had undertaken a fundamental review of how they handle complaints.
All of this comes at a time, when the NHS is under considerable financial pressure. One-third of England’s trusts predict they will be in debt by the end of next month. The Nuffield report says there is now a tension between what can best be described as the Nicholson Challenge (to save £20billion) and the Francis Challenge to improve the quality and standards of care.
Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health, said there have been “new inspections, more nurses and a stronger voice for patients, with compassionate care starting to replace tick-box targets as the major focus on boards and wards”.
However, the Nuffield report does not reach a meaningful conclusion because a year is not long enough to have a full picture. Only time will tell if any measurable improvements to patient care will be achieved.