NHS accused of ‘systemic failings’

Some have warned of a staff-management split. Picture: Tony Marsh
Some have warned of a staff-management split. Picture: Tony Marsh
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MEDICAL leaders have called for a major shake-up of the NHS after a damning new report found “deep-rooted and systemic failings” in Scotland’s health service.

The Academy of Medical Royal Colleges in Scotland has published a report entitled “Learning from serious failings in care” today, which was commissioned following inquiries into serious failings at NHS Lanarkshire, Vale of Leven Hospital and Aberdeen Royal Infirmary in 2013 and 2014.

NHS Lanarkshire was ordered to make widespread improvements following a probe into above-average mortality rates, while inspectors found serious problems with management and staffing at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

A working group from the academy compared these publications alongside a similar report into serious failings in care in Mid Staffordshire in England.

The strongly worded document said the failure of clinical staff and NHS management to work together had led to poor patient care, poor staff morale, inadequate complaints handling and poor leadership.

Ian Ritchie, chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges and Faculties in Scotland, and president of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, said: “Clinical staff and management must work more effectively together as teams. They must also be supported in doing so by ending the focus on inappropriate targets and making quality of care our over-riding priority.”

The report was described as a “damning indictment” of the failure to address the challenges facing the NHS, according to Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesman Jim Hume MSP.

He said: “Scottish Government ministers took their eye off the ball during the referendum and our NHS is in crisis as a result.”

The Scottish Government has pledged to review the recommendations within the report.

Professor Alan Paterson, chair of the Scottish Academy Short Life Working Group on Hospital Reports and director of the Centre for Professional Legal Studies at Strathclyde University, said: “It is clear that serious failings in team working between clinical staff and NHS management played a significant role in the failings in care identified.

“These failings are deep-rooted and systemic. They must not be ignored if we are to learn from them and to prevent repetition.”

Poor leadership and accountability meant bullying was endemic in many hospitals and the prioritisation of targets was leading to “appalling failings in care”, Prof Paterson added.

The report has made 20 recommendations in areas of leadership, culture and professional engagement, inadequate staffing, quality of care and patient experience and external review.