Unite calls on Sir David Nicholson to resign for failing to tackle patient abuse at Stafford

Tim Lezard

NHS logoNHS supremo Sir David Nicolson should resign for his role in failing to tackle the abuse of patients at Mid Staffordshire, highlighted by the Francis Report, Unite said today.

Unite national officer for health Rachael Maskell said: “Robert Francis’ report is to be warmly welcomed and embraced, with its 290 recommendations, that so strongly reinforces the case that patient care is central to the ethos of the NHS.

“Sir David Nicolson, who has thrown down the so-called Nicolson challenge of £20bn cuts, is not the person to lead the NHS into the world of patient-focused care as outlined by Robert Francis.

“A complete overhaul of dysfunctional management in the NHS needs to happen as a matter of urgency and the first person out the door should be Sir David Nicolson, chief executive of the NHS Commissioning Board – perhaps, the most powerful person in the coalition’s new NHS.

“In 2005, he was the regional NHS official who had the oversight of Mid-Staffs when the clinical failures were taking place. Later, as a NHS chief executive, he had accountability as to how the NHS responded as the scandal unfolded.

“The words ‘buck’, ‘stopping’ and ‘here’ have a certain resonance. The recommendations of the Francis Report make his position untenable.”

Unite welcomes the report, particularly the importance of whistleblowing on poor practice; the regulation of healthcare support workers; and hiding information about poor care becoming a criminal offence.

Unite has already called for all NHS institutions to have an independent ‘patient safety officer’, so staff and patients can raise concerns without reprisal, and the setting up of a national intelligence unit to co-ordinate information about problematic trusts.

Meanwhile, TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “There must never be a repeat of the neglect and mistreatment that took place in Mid Staffordshire – a tragedy made worse because of management failure, inadequate regulation and a culture of bullying which meant people were either too scared to speak out or if they did, they were simply ignored.

“But while what happened in Mid Staffordshire was unforgiveable, this is an extreme case and there is good practice and excellent treatment at the overwhelming majority of our hospitals.

“However, Robert Francis’ review makes many thorough and detailed recommendations which give us the opportunity to create a culture where the care and safety of patients is always the top concern, no matter where in the UK someone is being treated.

“The worry is that with the combination of huge government spending cuts and the massive changes happening throughout the health service – where private companies are increasingly likely to be the ones providing services in pursuit of profit – we risk recreating the very conditions and lack of accountability that allowed the Mid Staffordshire tragedy to go unnoticed for so many years.”


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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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