Man with no shame, Sir David Nicholson, "must share blame" over Mid Staffs scandal, Health Secretary finally admits

Man with no shame Sir David Nicholson 'must share blame' over Mid Staffs scandal, Health Secretary finally admitsJeremy Hunt changes stance on chief executive of the health serviceUp to 1,200 people died needlessly because of poor care

By
Tamara Cohen

PUBLISHED:

16:51 GMT, 14 March 2013

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UPDATED:

22:44 GMT, 14 March 2013

The most powerful man in the NHS ‘bears some responsibility’ for the tragedy at Mid Staffordshire, the Health Secretary admitted for the first time yesterday.

Jeremy Hunt acknowledged Sir David Nicholson’s failings while running the regional health authority.
It comes amid claims that ministerial support for the embattled chief executive is ebbing away, despite David Cameron’s backing for him.

Senior Government figures are said to be considering a plan for him to ‘pre-announce’ his resignation – but step down in 2014 when major health reforms are completed.

Sir David was appointed as head of the regional health watchdog and then his present job as chief executive of the NHS when Labour was in power. The awful events at Stafford took place entirely on Labour's watch

Sir David was appointed as head of the regional health watchdog and then his present job as chief executive of the NHS when Labour was in power. The awful events at Stafford took place entirely on Labour's watch

Sir David, described by critics as
the Man With No Shame, has rejected calls from MPs to resign over
revelations about appalling care at Stafford Hospital where up to 1,200
patients died needlessly.

In a Commons debate yesterday, Mr
Hunt went through the ‘truly shameful things’ that happened to patients
at the trust and the importance of ‘accountability’ to stop similar
disasters.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Sir David did 'bear some responsibility' for the scandal

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Sir David did 'bear some responsibility' for the scandal

He said: ‘Sir David Nicholson, as a
manager in the system that failed to spot and rectify the appalling
cases at Mid Staffs, bears some responsibility.

'As he said, the focus was lost, and
he has apologised and been held to account by this House and many
others. However, I do not believe that he bears total, or indeed
personal, responsibility for what happened.’ A Whitehall source said Mr
Hunt’s comments ‘are a definite shift’.

‘It reflects changing opinion in No 10 and the feeling they need to put a bit more pressure on David Nicholson,’ he said.

The Health Secretary has until now
been a staunch defender of Sir David, although he insisted yesterday
that his main responsibility when he was in the West Midlands was
merging three health authorities and that he was not aware of the
failings in Mid Staffordshire.

The main problem, he said, lay with
the trust board who ‘appear to have melted into thin air’ by walking
away into other NHS jobs or taking generous payoffs.

Mr Hunt claimed Sir David had
‘consistently warned both Ministers and managers of the dangers of
meeting targets at any cost, and told former health secretary Andy
Burnham ‘the desire to celebrate success got in the way of speaking out
when things went wrong.’

Shameful tragedy: By Sir David's own admission, the NHS was dysfunctional. And yet, rather than take responsibility for this state of affairs, he presents himself as the only person who can put the NHS right

Shameful tragedy: By Sir David's own admission, the NHS was dysfunctional. And yet, rather than take responsibility for this state of affairs, he presents himself as the only person who can put the NHS right

Campaign: A Cure The NHS poster shows what they think of Sir David, calling his evidence 'disgraceful'

Campaign: A Cure The NHS poster shows what they think of Sir David, calling his evidence 'disgraceful'

However other MPs insisted the NHS
chief should stand down over his role. Dr Phillip Lee, Tory MP for
Bracknell and a practising GP, said Sir David’s position was untenable
‘from a moral standpoint’.

Bill Cash, Tory MP for Stone in
Staffordshire, said: ‘The whole saga took place on Sir David’s watch
. . . and the problems that have arisen carry with them issues of
accountability.’

Mr Hunt’s comments came on the day he
revealed that gagging clauses that have prevented hundreds of NHS
whistleblowers speaking out are to be outlawed.

He also revealed yesterday that
senior management positions in the NHS will be opened up to high-fliers
from the private sector. He will bring forward proposals for a
‘fast-track’ programme to train managers with no health experience to
run hospitals.