Johnson: I’m sorry for Stafford hospital

By staff

Health secretary Alan Johnson has apologised for the state of Stafford hospital, which was revealed to have disastrous levels of care by the Healthcare Commission yesterday.

“I apologise on behalf of the government and the NHS for failures at Stafford hospital,” Mr Johnson said in a statement to the Commons today.

He explained how there had been “failure at every stage” of its operations.

Patients had been left without food and water for days, wards were understaffed and patient care seriously compromised, Mr Johnson admitted.

Nurses were untrained to use basic lifesaving equipment, there was a dangerous lack of experienced staff, poor monitoring of patients and no system in place to spot if things were going wrong.

Mr Johnson described it as “a catalogue of individual and systemic failings”.

The statement came after the state of the hospital dominated much of prime minister’s questions, with Gordon Brown denying it reflected a fundamental problem with the government’s target-based approach to the NHS.

Both Mr Brown and Mr Johnson stressed that the problems were about the hospital and its management rather than a generalised problem in the NHS.

“The failings at Stafford hospital are inexcusable,” Mr Johnson said.

Andrew Lansley, shadow health secretary, said: “We were all shocked an appalled by the systematic failings.”

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb said: “The catalogue of failings identified by the report are a horrifying indictment of the way that targets are placing financial goals ahead of patient care.”

The commission launched its investigation at the trust in March 2008 in response to concerns from local people and when it became clear that the trust stood out statistically in terms of the high death rates of patients admitted as emergencies.