George Freeman highlights role of data in investigation into NHS failings at Mid Staffs

Speaking in a debate on the anniversary of the release of the Francis Report on failings at the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, George Freeman highlights the role played by the release of data on outcomes and also raises concerns about the ongoing treatment of whistleblowers.

George Freeman (Mid Norfolk) (Con): Does the Secretary of State agree that it is important to remember that part of what allowed the Francis report was the release of data on outcomes, and that such data transparency is crucial to understanding where best and worst practice exists, which may not otherwise be picked up?

Mr Hunt: My hon. Friend is, as ever, absolutely right on this issue, which he has spoken about a great deal. The use of data allows inspections to be meaningful in a way that has not been possible before. We have to ensure that the public are happy that protections are in place on how their data are used, but at the same time we must be bold in using those data, because that saves a lot of lives.

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George Freeman: Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the most shameful episodes highlighted by the Francis report is the consistent and persistent neglect of the whistleblowers in the service who tried to raise the issues that were being hidden, and the systemic neglect of their interests? Many of them are still suffering, and this is still going on in Wales today. Will he invite the shadow Secretary of State to acknowledge that the problem is ongoing?

Jeremy Lefroy: I agree. The treatment of whistleblowers has been a disgrace, not just at Mid Staffs but in many other places. I have seen consultant contracts from way back that have prevented their raising issues even with their Members of Parliament, and I am glad to say that sort of thing is coming to an end. I want to try to focus as much as possible on the Francis report, however, as I believe there are many important lessons that all of us, including me, have to learn.

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George Freeman: The right hon. Lady is a doughty campaigner and commands the respect of the whole House for her work in bravely highlighting the issue. Does she agree from her experience and the correspondence that she has received that there is a lesson about the need for a different culture in the NHS of respecting the views of patients and whistleblowers, not treating them with contempt as though expressing such views is disloyal? Does she also agree that this saga highlights the importance of integrating data and having a statutory requirement to use the data to highlight the best and worst practices in the interests of patients?

Ann Clwyd: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making that point. In the report that I wrote with Tricia Hart on complaints, we made several suggestions and recommendations, which the Government have accepted. I hope that we have a debate similar to today’s on progress in that area in a few months’ time. Professor Sir Mike Richards has promised to campaign on the issue when he goes round the many hospitals that he visits, but it is not possible to say whether complaints will head his list and whether the way in which they are dealt with will be picked up.

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