NHS boss 'bitterly regrets' avoiding Mid-Staffs families

The man in charge of the NHS in the West Midlands when the Mid-Staffs scandal unfolded has admitted he "bitterly regrets" not speaking to families and patients who were affected.

Sir David Nicholson was chief executive of the West Midlands Strategic Health Authority, which oversaw the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust during the period when death rates were unusually high.

He went on to become the chief executive of NHS England - and with his retirement just 27 days away, he today said not talking to campaigners was his "biggest mistake" during 36 years of working in the service.

Sir David Nicholson, giving evidence to a Commons committee on serious failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust last year. Credit: PA

Speaking at a health care conference in Manchester, he said he avoided speaking to those affected so as not to become embroiled in a "media circus".

The biggest and most obvious mistake that I made was when the Health Care Commission reported on Mid Staffordshire and I went to the hospital, and I didn't seek out the patients representatives and the people who were in Cure The NHS.

I didn't do it because I made the wrong call.

At the time Andy Burnham had been out and it had been turned into a media circus, and I judged I didn't want to be involved in a media circus and I was wrong, I was absolutely wrong.

Because one of the things I learned, and I have determinedly done it since then, is that there is no shortcut to understanding and talking to patients and relatives and people.

That was a mistake that I made that I bitterly, bitterly regret.