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David Cameron: An NHS information revolution to save lives

“We don’t need to detail what happened here again. We have all read the stories – shocking and distressing in equal measure. We have all seen the pictures – with unacceptable standards of care.

“We have all looked at the tribute wall – a reflection of the deep pain still felt by friends and family. But we cannot let the headlines of last month turn into a shrug of the shoulders today.

“We need to understand why this happened and see what we need to do to make sure it never happens again. It’s clear that alongside management failures there are some failures which blight the whole system. The first is Labour’s culture of top-down targets and tick-box adherence.  With their targets and bureaucratic control, Labour have actually created a system that forces NHS staff to follow rules that can actively cause harm to the health of patients.

“The second is the ‘closed culture’ within our hospitals. There’s too little information available to the public about the problems that exist – meaning problems can be hushed up, brushed under the carpet and not exposed until it’s far too late.

“If we want to help stop something like this from happening again, we need to act on both fronts. That means scrapping all those centrally-imposed process targets that distort clinical judgements and make the NHS answer to politicians. And it means opening up the NHS with a genuine information revolution – a revolution that puts power in the hands of people, makes doctors respond to patients and genuinely saves lives.

“How can we do that? With an approach so obvious, you’ll be astonished it doesn’t already happen.

“We’ll measure those things that people really care about: how long will my Dad survive if he gets cancer, what happens after my initial treatment, how does a hospital do on issues like infections? We will collect patients’ views on all aspects of their care via a simple questionnaire. And we will allow patients to give immediate feedback to hospitals about any bad care they have endured.  We’ll compile all this information in a meaningful and accessible way that can be easily understood and let every patient compare and contrast different care providers. And we’ll then let patients, with their GPs, pick precisely where they want to be treated.

“I have given an explanation of why I believe this tragedy unfolded. And I have explained how we can help prevent this from ever happening again. But I also know that this is little consolation to the patients and relatives that have been so hurt and distressed by what has happened here. They have a right to make their evidence known. They deserve to have their voices heard. That’s why today, I’m calling on this Government to launch a proper public inquiry into what happened here. Not another review that is limited in scope, lacking in independence, and devoid of public input. A proper, full-scale, root-and-branch look into what went wrong. Then, and only then, may those who suffered here begin to properly heal.”

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