NHS Reforms, Including Fines And Closures For Failings, Could Be Announced In Stafford Hospital Review

Wide-ranging reforms of the National Health Service will be recommended by a public inquiry into serious failings of care at a scandal-hit hospital.

The £11 million review of what went wrong at Stafford Hospital between January 2005 and March 2009 will suggest hospitals that cover up mistakes by doctors and poor treatment of patients should face fines and possible closure, the Sunday Times said.

And Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, writing in the Sunday Telegraph, said that the NHS needed a "change of culture".

Campaigners who lobbied for an inquirty into failings at Stafford Hospital

"Patients must never be treated as numbers but as human beings, indeed human beings at their frailest and most vulnerable," he wrote.

"A culture of targets and performance management defined the NHS under Labour - with the unintended and tragic consequence that organisations cared more about meeting top down targets than focusing on the needs of patients."

The inquiry, led by Robert Francis QC, is due to report back this month.

The newspapers reported that the inquiry will set out recommendations including a "duty of candour" that would see fines or the threat of closure used against hospitals that fail to tell patients their treatment went wrong; greater regulation of management; a reform of training for nurses and healthcare assistants, and stronger patient representative bodies.

It was commissioned in 2010 after a separate highly-critical report by the Healthcare Commission the previous year revealed a catalogue of failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust and said "appalling standards" put patients at risk.

Between 400 and 1,200 more people died than would have been expected in a three-year period from 2005 to 2008, the commission said.

In February 2010, an independent inquiry into events at the trust found it had "routinely neglected patients".

It recently emerged that the trust has paid out more than £1 million in compensation to 120 victims of abuse or their families.

The Sunday Telegraph claimed that complaints against 41 doctors and at least 29 nurses at Stafford were sent to their professional bodies, but none were struck off.

Hunt added: "We are rightly proud of the core founding values of the NHS, particularly that no one, regardless of income, should be deprived of the best care.

"These failings of basic human compassion represent perhaps the most shocking betrayal of NHS founding values in its history.

"And a betrayal of the vast majority of doctors, nurses and care assistants who joined the profession because of their innate compassion and humanity."