Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 1 October 2014

PM slammed over health row comments

David Cameron insisted the chief executive of the NHS had 'frankly and candidly' apologised for failings at Stafford Hospital

Labour has accused David Cameron of a "shabby" attempt to politicise the Mid-Staffordshire health scandal after the Prime Minister put some of the blame for hospital deaths on the target culture introduced by the previous government.

Defending NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson against calls for his resignation, Mr Cameron said that "others" should be considering their positions in the wake of last month's Francis Report.

Aides to the PM declined to confirm whether Mr Cameron was referring to former Labour health ministers, including shadow health secretary Andy Burnham.

At Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, Mr Cameron insisted Sir David - who was in charge of the Strategic Health Authority covering Mid-Staffordshire at the time of the scandal - had already "frankly and candidly" apologised for failings that contributed to the deaths of hundreds of patients.

He said: "Everyone has to think of their responsibilities with regard to the dreadful events that happened at the Staffordshire hospital, including the fact that part of the problem was people following a very top-down, target-led agenda which led to patient care being put on the back-burner. David Nicholson has made his apology and wants to get on with his job of running an excellent NHS, and other people frankly should be thinking of their position too."

Mr Cameron's comments struck a much more party political tone than his immediate response to the Francis Report last month, when he told MPs that there should be no hunt for "scapegoats" for the failings at Stafford Hospital, where there were up to 1,200 excess deaths between 2005 and 2009.

A senior Labour spokesman described the PM's comments as "a fairly shabby attempt to politicise the Francis Report", adding: "The Francis Report specifically said that no ministers were to blame. Cameron said in his statement afterwards that he wasn't going to scapegoat people. This was a little cheap."

The PM's aides said he would not be producing a list of names of those he felt should be considering their positions, but agreed it was possible to infer from his comments that he was frustrated at the fact that no-one has stood down since Robert Francis reported a month ago.

Mr Cameron's official spokesman said: "He was making a point which is consistent with the public inquiry, which is that a large number of organisations are having to look at their roles and responsibilities."

Sir David was chief executive of three strategic health authorities, including Shropshire & Staffordshire, for 10 months between 2005 and 2006 - the height of the failings in care at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust.

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