It will become a criminal offence for NHS care providers and senior managers to submit misleading data, under plans released by the government in response to the Francis Inquiry.
The inquiry, led by Robert Francis QC, was launched in response to failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust, which had high death rates, but made inaccurate statements about its mortality figures.
The government’s response, entitled ‘Hard Truths- The Journey to Putting Patients First’, says that Francis’ recommendation to introduce this as a criminal offence has been accepted.
“The government has introduced a new criminal offence applicable to care providers that supply or publish certain types of information that is false or misleading, where that information is required to comply with a statutory or other legal obligation,” it says.
“The offence will also apply to directors and senior managers who have consented or connived in (or are negligent in relation to) an offence committed by a care provider.”
The government will also create a hospital safety website for patients, available by June next year, as part of a ‘patient safety programme’ run by NHS England.
NHS trusts will have to publish monthly figures on staffing numbers for each ward and these will be made available on the website. By the end of 2014, this will be done using guidance approved independently by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.
The monthly publication will also include “never events”, pressure ulcers and healthcare related infections. Dr Mike Durkin, national director of patient safety at NHS England, said the measures will bring together all the “robust patient safety data” in one place.
“Available online, this will make clear to the public what patient safety data does, and does not, mean about the safety of our hospitals,” he said.
The government says it has fully accepted 204 of the 289 recommendations made by Francis. This includes plans to begin publishing quarterly reporting of complaints data and lessons learned by trusts.
“Trusts should provide patients with a way of feeding back comments and concerns about their care on the ward including simple steps such as putting pen and paper by the bedside and making sure patients know who to speak to if they have a concern,” the response says.
NHS England will also re-launch the patient safety alert system by the end of this calendar year.
“This new system will include greater clarity about how organisations can assess their compliance with alerts and other notifications and ensure they are appropriately implemented,” says the response.
Speaking in the House of Commons today, health secretary Jeremy Hunt said that this was only the beginning of the “transformation of the NHS”.
“Today’s measures are a blueprint for restoring trust in the NHS, reinforcing professional pride in NHS frontline staff and above all giving confidence to patients,” he said.
“I want every patient in every hospital to have confidence that they will be given the best and safest care and the way to do that is to be completely open and transparent.”