The chairman of the inquiry into the Mid-Staffs hospital scandal has warned that Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) is so unsafe they if it were an airline “planes would fall out of the sky all the time.”
Robert Francis QC, one of Britain’s top lawyers, also said that the public have been given a false impression as to how safe the NHS is thanks to a lack of information and an unwillingness by politicians to criticise it.
In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, the barrister said Britain’s health service needs to make radical changes, and to focus more on making the system fit the patients, rather than vice versa.
He said that those in charge of the nationalised health-care system have been “complacent” for too long about the quality of care for patients, believing that it was fine for some to be badly treated as long as the majority were treated well.
Mr Francis said: “If we ran our airline industry on the same basis, planes would be falling out of the sky all the time. We’ve just got to change the attitude that because it’s provided by the state it’s all right for a number of people to be treated badly; well it’s not. Airlines would go out of business very quickly if they worked that way.”
He went on the praise current Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt for speaking up for patients. He said that politicians had previously been too scared to point out failings in the NHS due to its cult status. Ministers had been too eager to close down debate because they wanted to be seen as the “spokesperson for the NHS”, and respected it far too much as an institution.
Mr Francis said: “Mr Hunt, from time to time delivers a view that he’s not satisfied with mediocre services of one sort or another and is then criticised for dissing the health service, when actually what he is doing is promoting the views of patients who want better care.”
Robert Francis chaired the inquiry into the Mid-Staffs scandal in which hundreds of people died due to “appalling” failings. Patients were left lying in their own faeces for days, forced to drink water from flower vases or given the wrong medication.
Jeremy Hunt said last night: “It is my clear ambition that the NHS should become the safest healthcare system anywhere in the world. I want the tragic events of Mid Staffs to become a turning point in the creation of a more open, compassionate and transparent culture within the NHS.
“We now have a once in a generation opportunity to save lives and prevent avoidable harm. This is why I recently launched the new sign up to safety initiative – which will save up to 6,000 lives over the next three years and save money that can be reinvested back into patient care.”