26 Sep 2013

British healthcare scandal unlikely in NZ - Ryall

6:58 pm on 26 September 2013

The appalling hospital care which sparked a major scandal in Britain is unlikely to happen in this country, Health Minister Tony Ryall says.

In what is known as the Mid Staffordshire scandal, patients at Britain's Stafford Hospital were left lying in their own faeces for days, forced to drink water from flower vases and given the wrong medication. Poor care at the hospital resulted in the death of up to 1200 patients from 2005-2009.

A public inquiry this year reported there was appalling suffering and financial goals out-weighed basic care and compassion.

Mr Ryall told a conference on quality and safety in health in Auckland on Thursday that such a situation was much less likely to happen here as there were strong processes relating to clinical leadership. As well, the health service was smaller, with a much greater level of scrutiny.

But Carol Haraden, an American expert at the Auckland conference, said what happened in Britain was horrific and could happen anywhere.

The leader of the public inquiry into the Mid Staffordshire scandal, lawyer Robert Francis, will visit New Zealand soon to discuss what went so wrong.

He is being brought to New Zealand by the Waitemata District Health Board and the Health Quality and Safety Commission.

Commission chief executive Janice Wilson said the Mid Staffordshire Trust, which ran the hospital, focused on finances and performance, to the detriment of patient care and compassion.

"They were very driven by their need to be a foundation trust, which was getting the finances completely right, and lost sight of some of the quality indicators and lost sight of needing to listen to patients and to listen to staff," she said.

New Zealand had strong systems for ensuring quality and safety but was keen to learn Mr Robert Francis, Dr Wilson said.