New Clause 12 — De-authorisation of NHS foundation trusts
Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire, Conservative)
Dr. Wright is having to chair a meeting of a Committee of the House, which is why he is not present now. He did intervene briefly earlier.
I must make it plain that since 1997, fewer of my constituents have gone to Mid Staffordshire hospital than before. Before the new Stafford constituency was created in 1997, when I represented the whole of South Staffordshire, a very large number of my constituents received excellent treatment in the hospital as it was then. I echo what was said earlier by my right hon. Friend Mr. McLoughlin, our Chief Whip, who cited the excellent treatment received by his late mother before she died in that hospital.
Mr. Kidney-I am delighted to see him on the Front Bench-my hon. Friend Mr. Cash and the hon. Member for Cannock Chase now have far more constituents treated at Mid Staffordshire than I do, but I have nevertheless heard a number of very distressing stories. What happened at Mid Staffordshire was deplorable and inexcusable. All that concerns me in the context of this brief debate-and I will be brief-is that it must not happen again, but if by any unfortunate chance it does, there must be a mechanism to deal with the situation expeditiously.
Mid Staffordshire should never have become a foundation trust, and after it became one, it was judged according to the wrong criteria. We were taken by surprise when it was revealed just how dreadful some of the treatments had been, how shoddily managed the place had been, and what a disgrace to the national health service it was. That should not happen in a civilised country.
I am grateful to the Minister of State and the Secretary of State-as well as their predecessors-for the readiness with which they have discussed these matters with Staffordshire Members. I am grateful, too, for the keen and real interest that they have taken in these matters. I do not doubt for a moment that in presenting the House with the new clause, they are trying to ensure that a terrible disaster like the one at Mid Staffordshire does not happen again.
As I said briefly to the Minister in an intervention, what worries me is that the process that is being proposed is extremely cumbersome, and I doubt whether it can produce the sort of expeditious result that my hon. Friend the Member for Stone and I both want. I would much prefer-my hon. Friend made the same point in his intervention-a quick mechanism allowing the Secretary of State, with whom the buck always stops, to intervene very quickly. When something like the Mid Staffordshire disaster comes to light, there should be no opportunity for long discussions and debates about who does what and all the rest of it. There should be an instant opportunity for dismissal, and for taking over management before anyone else dies or is treated in the inhuman way in which, sadly, so many patients were treated at Mid Staffordshire.
When some time ago the Minister discussed with us-and the Secretary of State-his wish to introduce a mechanism to take away trust status, all of us around the table responded very positively. However, I am not entirely persuaded that the mechanism that he is proposing now will be as effective and expeditious as I would like it to be. Like him, I sincerely hope that what happened at Mid Staffordshire will never happen anywhere else, but human beings are fallible, and it could happen. If it did, I would want a lightning reaction; I would want the culprits to be got rid of, because at the end of the day all that matters is the quality of care that our constituents, wherever they live, receive in the hospital to which they have had to be taken. The tragedy of Mid Staffordshire is that the people who placed their trust in the medical care of that institution were in many cases terribly let down-not in every case, but in many, many cases. That must not happen again. One reason why people did not have too many fears was the fact that this institution bore the flagship label of a foundation trust, and yet never was any flagship holed below the waterline more often.
I just hope that the Minister can reassure me; and because this should never be a party political matter, I would like him to enter into conversations with the shadow Secretary of State and other colleagues on my party's Front Bench to see if we can come up, even at this very late stage, with a solution that is acceptable to all of us, and one that can persuade all of us that there is indeed a remedy if disaster strikes again.