CQC Criticises NHS Power Whilst Condemning "wholly unsatisfactory service."

23 December 2013

CQC Criticises NHS Power Whilst Condemning "wholly unsatisfactory service."

The health regulator has said that despite many patients receiving a ‘wholly unsatisfactory’ service from the NHS, the health service has become “too powerful to criticise” and which is impacting the manner in which failings can and should be addressed.

Care Quality Commission (CQC) chairman David Prior told the Daily Telegraph that despite the status of the NHS, it was not above reproach and criticism and that its perceived power was preventing even the most senior staff from speaking out against faults regarding care to patients.

Mr Prior stated that even there was far more honesty in the health service regarding failings and addressing problems, some areas were still “out of control” due to the perceived power of the service which in turn led to a lesser likelihood of amongst senior staff to be honest about failings, leading to a reluctance to raise the alarm.

Mr Prior said: "It became too powerful to criticise. When things were going wrong people didn't say anything. If you criticised the NHS - the attitude was 'how dare you?'

"No organisation should be put on such a high pedestal that it is beyond criticism. Now it is getting more honest about our failings - which I think makes it more likely that we will address them."

Mr Prior identified the emergency care system as a part of change within the NHS that needed to be prioritised and that it was "wholly unsatisfactory" that such a high number of patients struggled to get an appointment with their GP.

He said: "Their opening times have to be geared around the patients

"It's no surprise that Sainsbury and Tesco do most of their business outside office hours because that's when people can get to shop. Working people need to be able to see their GP in the evening or at the weekend."

Mr Prior went on to describe the culture of the NHS which was rooted in a deep set and ‘chillingly defensive’ culture where senior staff felt afraid to speak out against poor standards due to the perceived risk in seriously jeopardising their careers.

"I had not realised that the culture in some of our hospitals was so damaged. That was an awakening," he said.

"When you are compared to a national religion, that is the problem," he said referencing a description of the NHS by Lord Lawson.

He added: "I think targets can be distortive. Every time a patient arrives [in A&E] the clock starts ticking and not a lot happens.

"At three hours people start to get interested - and at three hours 55 minutes the chief executive is down in the A&E department. That doesn't make any sense."

Mr Prior also felt that more money should be put into primary and community care to stop people falling ill as opposed to chasing down A&E departments who have missed their departments, something Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has been doing, ensuring more money is placed into A&E. Mr Prior felt that this was “crazy” for Mr Hunt to be doing and that "There is an obsession. It's crazy to have a secretary of state doing that”

"Of course he's doing it, because he's held accountable but what it all leads to is more money being put into A&E departments when that money should probably be put into primary and community care to stop people falling ill."

The Department of Health responded to Mr Prior’s comments by asserting that Mr Hunt "would not be doing his job" if he did not directly deal with failing A&E targets by speaking to those in command at individual trusts and hospitals.

The spokesman from the Department of Health also defended the performance of A&E units, saying they were "holding up well" and more people than ever before were being seen within four hours.

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