Report says NHS culture to blame for healthcare failures

THE NHS requires “wide systemic change” to ensure it is a world-class healthcare system, according to a major report released yesterday that says individual staff should not be blamed for care failings.

Professor Don Berwick, a US academic who has advised President Obama, was commissioned by David Cameron to examine NHS England following a series of scandals, including at the Mid-Staffs trust.

Berwick concluded that problems exist throughout the healthcare system but said the organisation’s collective mentality was to blame.

“Achieving a vastly safer NHS will depend far more on major cultural change than on a new regulatory regime,” he explained.

Berwick said staff should be made to put the quality and safety of patient care above all other healthcare targets. He also said there should be guidelines for minimum staffing levels at hospitals of around eight patients per nurse but stopped short of suggesting these should be legally enforced.

The report says there should be a new criminal charge of “wilful neglect” but insists sanctions against staff should only be used very occasionally.

But Berwick rejected calls to put a whistleblowing obligations on staff and said that overall Britain should be proud of a system that is a “globally important treasure”.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt welcomed the report but insisted a centrally-set minimum staffing level would amount to an “artificial target”. Instead he believes hospitals should be able to adjust staffing as they see fit.

Labour’s shadow health secretary Andy Burnham said: “All the experts are now telling the government to get a grip on staffing levels. Over 800 nursing jobs were lost last month alone – now almost 5,000 since the election.”