Rosie Cooper MP is demanding that individuals responsible for a catalogue of failings that led to serious harm at Liverpool Community Health (LCH) should be held to account and prevented from working in positions of authority at other health organisations.
Her call follows today’s publication of an independent review ordered by Ministers into failings at LCH from 2010 to 2014, following a Parliamentary debate triggered by the West Lancashire MP last year.
The review, conducted by Dr Bill Kirkup and a panel of independent health experts, finds that prior to the arrival of a new interim leadership team at LCH in 2014, a stark and harrowing picture of far-reaching failure at the Trust was allowed to go unchallenged over several years by NHS regulators. These failings included:
- A headlong rush by LCH to Foundation Trust status which led to deep cuts to clinical services and serious harm to patients and staff.
- A lack of basic oversight by NHS Improvement, NHS England, and local Clinical Commissioning Groups which compromised the quality of patient care, enabled the bullying and harassment of staff to take place on an industrial scale, and made possible a culture of concealment and denial at board-level within LCH for four long years.
- The likelihood that avoidable deaths occurred at HMP Liverpool following deep cuts to services, an abject failure of oversight by the LCH Board prior to April 2014 and an absence of effective scrutiny by NHS England, which commissions offender health services.
- An increase in the number of patients left to develop agonising pressure sores, which reach right down to the bone, due to reductions in nursing numbers – aided and abetted by the failure of NHS Improvement, local Clinical Commissioning Groups and their predecessor organisations to properly assess the impact on patient care of drastic, cost-saving reductions to the Trust’s clinical workforce.
Following the appointment of an interim leadership team in 2014, significant increases have been made to the LCH clinical workforce and the independent review found dramatic improvements to the culture of the organisation - improvements that are now being taken forward by Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust, which formally merged with Liverpool Community Health last year.
Despite these improvements, Rosie Cooper MP wants action to prevent rogue NHS leaders, responsible for the damming failures at LCH in the past, from continuing to work in positions of authority in other parts of the NHS and other NHS-funded organisations.
West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper: Triggered Parliamentary Debate in 2017
Speaking following the publication of Dr Bill Kirkup’s independent review, Rosie Cooper MP said:
“This report will be welcomed by patients and especially staff as it verifies all they have said about the reign of terror that led to harm to both staff and patients at LCH over four long years from 2010.
“Despite this, the report clearly shows that in the NHS everyone is accountable and no one is responsible. These faceless bureaucrats, who make mistakes and cause harm, simply say ‘oops, I missed it’ and move on without a care to their next well-paid job, potentially to repeat their mistakes. It is time for the fit and proper persons test to be significantly strengthened to prevent this happening.
“We know, for example, that prior to April 2014, the LCH Board spent more than £350,000 to drum up support for their application for foundation trust status. They spent more than £1million on a programme-management office of external consultants to tell them how to save money. And at the Trust’s annual meeting in 2013, the same year the Board slashed millions of pounds from front-line services, its leadership team still managed to find enough money to hire jugglers, unicyclists, stilt-walkers and a life-sized elephant to greet guests.
“Despite this, and the litany of failings described in Dr Kirkup's report, not one of the regulators – NHS Improvement, NHS England or local Clinical Commissioning Groups - who cost taxpayers nearly £2billion each year nationally, picked up the massive and growing leadership, quality and financial shortcomings, despite the problems being so large they could almost be seen from space. This is simply inexcusable but it is unforgivable that these are exactly the same issues raised by Sir Robert Francis in his report into the failings at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust.
“Proper disciplinary procedures should be followed and people should be held responsible for their decisions, and consideration be given to holding them responsible for their decisions for a period of time after they leave or retire, as I believe happens in the fire service.
“There needs to be a robust ‘fit and proper person test’ applied to these individuals and if found wanting, those who are now in positions of authority elsewhere in the health system should not be allowed to hold public positions or public contracts in the future.
“It is almost five years to the day of Francis Report into Mid-Staffs being published, and here we are again, with the same organisations and issues in the spotlight. The events at Mid-Staffs brought in the fit and proper persons test, and this now needs to be considerably strengthened, and now include regulators.
“The Secretary of State should also ensure that, in the future, it is a requirement for employees and former holders of public office to give evidence about their role and decisions taken in any future NHS reviews. It is appalling some of those responsible for the catalogue of disasters at LCH refused Dr Kirkup's repeated requests to take part in this review. It should also be a disciplinary matter to not keep proper records of actions and decisions taken on behalf of patients and taxpayers.
“No one is looking for retribution, simply justice. The report makes clear that very junior employees were - sometimes unjustifiably - held to account, suffering real harm. Yet those in positions of authority who have left the Trust or continue work in external bodies responsible for scrutinising LCH, appear able to walk away without being held to account.
“I will be raising this absence of accountability with Ministers and demanding action, which should include heartfelt apologies to the patients and staff of Liverpool Community Health Trust and begin culture change programmes which will also help those staff who were affected by the former regime.”