Learning disability charity Mencap has welcomed the government’s response to the Francis Report, and the emphasis on transparency, but wants to see strong evidence that patients with a learning disability and their families’ complaints are being taken seriously.
The government has outlined its response to the Francis Report, which was commissioned in the wake of the Mid Staffordshire scandal, where hundreds of patients died amid failings in care.
The Francis Report made 290 recommendations, and the government has accepted 281 of them. These include:
•Transparent, monthly reporting of ward-by-ward staffing levels and other safety measures
•A new national patient safety programme across England to spread best practice and build safety skills across the country and 5,000 patient safety fellows will be trained and appointed in 5 years
•A new criminal offence for wilful neglect, with a government intention to legislate so that those responsible for the worst failures in care are held accountable
•Every hospital patient to have the names of a responsible consultant and nurse above their bed
•A new care certificate to ensure that healthcare assistants and social care support workers have the right fundamental training and skills.
Beverly Dawkins OBE, specialist advisor for Mencap, said: “Recent research has shown that 1,200 people with a learning disability die avoidably within the health service every year. This is the equivalent of three people dying needlessly every single day. We have worked with close to 100 families who have lost loved ones with a learning disability, supporting them to seek justice through the NHS complaints process, the inquest system and professional regulatory bodies, like the GMC [General Medical Council].
“We welcome the Government’s announcement that they have accepted 281 out of the 290 recommendations of the Francis Inquiry, particularly the ‘duty of candour’ and calls for the NHS to be completely open and transparent. However, the real test is not the number of recommendations that the government have accepted but how the NHS treats the next person with a learning disability who falls within its care.
“The current complaint system is not fit for purpose. Every week we continue to hear from more families whom the NHS has failed. We have serious concerns that these reforms lack the necessary bite to change this culture. Until this changes the Department of Health is failing to ensure that people with a learning disability get the high quality healthcare they deserve.”