Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust
Opposition Day — [11th Allotted Day]
Andrew Lansley (Shadow Secretary of State for Health, Health; South Cambridgeshire, Conservative)
Yes, it does. It may be excessive to expect that even a public inquiry would be able to identify, in all cases, where and to what extent that had happened. However, if a review of case notes gives rise to serious concerns about a significant number of cases, at least a public inquiry would provide a mechanism in the round to consider what that tells us about the clinical governance that was being undertaken and how it may need to be reformed in future.
I want to make a specific point about what has not been achieved by these reviews. For several years, the Government have had the National Patient Safety Agency. One of its principal tasks involves the national reporting and learning system, which should in itself give rise to alerts about the compromise of patient care and errors and inefficiencies. I have failed to see any evidence anywhere in the reviews that the National Patient Safety Agency exists, let alone that it has done anything. If a public inquiry were to look into failings of policy, and needs for the future, that would clearly be one of them.
I hope that, in the course of the past few minutes, I have made it clear that the questions about why Stafford hospital failed its patients in emergency services and admissions, as identified in the Healthcare Commission report, have not been answered, and why a public inquiry is therefore needed. The reports thus far have not given the public in Staffordshire a voice, and they have not provided a public opportunity, with protection, for evidence to be taken. The reports were not independent, and they have failed to investigate the direct role of the Department of Health and its policies. Until recently, both the authors were civil servants in the Department of Health: they are not independent, and we should not see them as such. Neither report contained critical scrutiny of the impact of targets. There was no critical examination of the role of the chief executives of the strategic health authorities over the period in question. There was no discussion of the roles of the national reporting and learning system or of the National Patient Safety Agency. There was no discussion of how the complaints processes have worked or how patient engagement has worked, and no substantive proposals about how they can be reformed in future, as they clearly must be. Instead of robust criticism, all we have is a bureaucratic process. Dr. Colin-Thomé's report, in particular, suggests that the things that the Government were already planning to do, such as practice-based commissioning, world-class commissioning and LINks, will somehow solve everything. There is no evidence that that will happen—far from it. Indeed, some initiatives, such as practice-based commissioning and LINks, are stalling rather than making the progress that they should.
Because of all that, the reports do not shed light on why those in the hospital and elsewhere failed to stop the tragic events that have killed, or caused avoidable deaths among perhaps hundreds of patients, with all the distress that that has meant for their families. I again pay tribute to Julie Bailey and all her colleagues at the Cure the NHS campaign, who persisted when the situation was very difficult and it took courage to do so in the face of a bureaucracy that was determined that they would not expose what was happening at Stafford hospital. They want an inquiry now, and say that only when we know why and how this happened will the commitment to say "Never again" truly be credible. Ministers have been to see them and have promised to think again, but I do not see the evidence that they have done so. It is therefore incumbent on Parliament to require them to think again, and I commend the motion to the House.