The report will look into why so many people died at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust during a three year period (Reuters)
The report will look into why so many people died at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust during a three year period (Reuters)

The NHS is preparing for one of the "darkest days" in its history on the eve of a report being published into the failings of one of its hospitals.

The £11m inquiry, chaired by QC Robert Francis, is due to be made public on 6 February. The review was set up to look into the "appalling" standard of care at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust between January 2005 and March 2009.

A separate report by the Healthcare Commission in 2009 revealed that there were between 400 and 1,200 more deaths than the number considered usual from 2005-08. In February 2010 an independent inquiry found the trust had "routinely neglected patients".

The report by Francis is expected to be heavily critical and suggest a series of reforms.

Mike Farrar, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said the recommendations must be adopted.

Farrar said: "This Wednesday will be one of the darkest days for the NHS but we must turn it in to an opportunity to build a better NHS for patients. Our failings in Mid Staffordshire will be laid bare - and rightly so. We have to respond.

Clearer picture of performance

"We need to make it easier for patients to give feedback. We need to provide the public with a clearer picture of the performance of their local services. The people in charge of running our health services should rightly be held to account when they fail act in the interests of patients.

"What we don't want is a simplistic blame game, excessive inspection or micromanagement. These are false gods that externalise problems rather than putting responsibility where it belongs - in the boardroom and on the frontline. They suck up resources and encourage tick-box responses, not real culture change."

Even during the review, Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust continued to display a lack of patient care. In January, one of its members of staff was suspended after a four-month-old baby boy was found with a dummy taped to its mouth.

Police are investigating.

Dean Royles, director of the NHS Employees Organisation, which is part of the NHS Confederation, said: "NHS leaders need individual and collective responses to the unnecessary distress and trauma of Mid Staffordshire. These responses must be focused on a sustainable culture change for the NHS that will endure far beyond the initial flurry of reaction to Robert Francis' report.

"Whatever recommendations the report includes, we need to consider our response carefully. We owe that to all those affected by the failings at Mid Staffordshire."

"The NHS will be making seismic changes to how care is delivered while at the same time we will be responding to the recommendations of the inquiry."

The Prime Minister David Cameron will also take the rare unusual step of delivering a statement following the publishing of the report, a task normally given to the secretary of state.

The fact Cameron is preparing to give a statement to the House of Commons Francis inquiry is seen as a clear indicator of the severity of its finding.

The prime minister's spokesman said: "The point the secretary of state [for health, Jeremy Hunt] and the prime minister were making in cabinet is around the seriousness of the issues. This will be the second Francis report. The first into care standards at the trust highlighted what can only be described as a completely unacceptable failure that caused appalling distress to patients and their families.

"Given the scale of the failings that that original report uncovered it is the government's very clear view that it is important to get to the bottom of why those failings were undetected for so long. That is why it is right to have set up the public inquiry [which] focused on the commissioning and regulatory regime - why these failings were undetected."