Department of Health Skip to content

Please note that this website has a UK government access keys system.

You are here:

Health Secretary launches full public inquiry into failings at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust

  • Published date:
    9 June 2010
Department of Health logo

A full public inquiry into the appalling failings in patient care at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust was announced today by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley


  • Inquiry to begin today will be heard in public
  • Robust new safeguards for NHS whistleblowers 
  • Move from process-driven targets to a focus on patient outcomes 

A full public inquiry into the appalling failings in patient care at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust was announced today by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley. 

The Inquiry, to be chaired by Robert Francis QC, will have the full statutory force of the Public Inquiries Act 2005 including the power to compel witnesses to attend and speak under oath.  It will seek to expose how events at the Trust went undetected and unchallenged for so long by the wider regulatory and supervisory bodies responsible for monitoring the performance of the Trust.

The Health Secretary announced immediate plans to tackle the culture of secrecy, fear and bullying among staff at the hospital identified by previous inquiries, setting out new measures to strengthen protection for NHS staff who whistle blow.   The measures will both encourage staff to raise concerns and ensure that they are listened to when they do and include:

  • reinforcing rights and responsibilities for staff and employers in the NHS Constitution; 
    issuing new guidance to the NHS stating that contracts of employment should cover whistle blowing; and
    supporting staff that raise concerns.

The Health Secretary also announced that over the coming weeks he will set out further plans to reform the NHS, addressing issues at the very heart of problems at Mid-Staffordshire including:

  • Scrapping targets without clinical justification – so staff focus on what matters to patients and not on centrally dictated processes;
  • Publishing detailed data about the performance of healthcare providers - so people can compare services and exercise their choice; 
  • Giving patients the power to rate hospitals and doctors – giving patients a voice so they can hold these services to account; and
  • Developing a more effective regulatory and inspection system.  

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley:

'Months ago, I promised a full public inquiry into the failing of Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, if I was ever given the opportunity to do so.  Today I am delivering on that promise. We know only too well what happened at this hospital – what we need to know is how and why.  A full public inquiry will shed light on uninvestigated areas and help us to understand and learn from them. 

'The NHS must prioritise the people it serves and listen to the doctors and nurses who work in it.  I have today set out how I intend to strengthen protection for NHS whistleblowers.  Last week we began to publish more transparent data about the NHS so people can hold their local services to account.  And yesterday I set out one of the ways we will focus the NHS on improving patient outcomes by reducing hospital readmissions.

'But this alone is not enough.  We need a culture change in the NHS that puts patients first – an NHS that listens to patients and responds to their concerns and needs. If patients at Stafford had been listened to and prioritised over processes and targets these terrible failings would have been challenged sooner.

'The events at Mid-Staffordshire were a tragic story of targets being put before clinical judgement and patient care, focusing on the cost and volume of treatment not the quality.  That is why I want to move away from targets and replace them with measuring what matter most to patients - their experience of the NHS, the quality of their care and the outcome of their treatment.'

Robert Francis will aim to provide a final report in March 2011.

Notes to editors

  1. Health Secretary Andrew Lansley announced the public inquiry into Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust in a statement to Parliament on Wednesday 9 June 2010.  The statement is available via the relevant link below.
  2. The Terms of Reference can be found via the relevant link below. 
  3. For media enquiries only please contact the Department of Health press office on 020 7210 5221.


Access keys