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Minister apologises over 'appalling' harm at failed NHS Trust

Photo: PA

Patients at a failed NHS trust suffered "appalling" harm because its senior leadership team "shirked their legal and moral responsibilities".

Health minister Steve Barclay apologised on behalf of the Government in the Commons after an independent review found a catalogue of failings at Liverpool Community Health NHS Trust.

The report by Dr Bill Kirkup, who also investigated the Morecambe Bay scandal at Furness General Hospital, found the organisation to be "dysfunctional from the outset".

MP Rosie Cooper, who led calls for an investigation into the trust, likened it to a "dictatorship" and said cover-ups and backdoor deals had to end in the health service.

Mr Barclay, making a statement to MPs, said the behaviour of the trust represented a similar "moral drift" to that displayed in the Mid Staffordshire NHS hospital trust scandal.

He said: "

What happened to patients of Liverpool Community is before anything else a terrible personal tragedy for all of the families involved.

"The report makes clear the devastating impact on many of the frontline staff as well.

"On behalf of the Government I want to apologise to them."

– Health minister Steve Barclay

Mr Barclay outlined some of the report's findings, which he said gave a "clear, forensic, and at times a devastating account of failures" at the trust.

He added: "

The report covers the period from formation in November 2010 to December 2014, it describes an organisation, and I quote, 'dysfunctional from the outset'.

"The consequences of this for patient care were in some cases appalling and the report details a number of incidents of patient harm including pressure sores, falls leading to fractured hips and five never events, five never events in the dental service, an incredibly high number for one organisation."

– Health minister Steve Barclay

Despite the problems, the report noted the trust was determined to achieve foundation status and set "infeasible financial targets that damaged patient services".

Mr Barclay said: "

The review states, and I quote, 'the trust undertake an aggressive cost improvement plan', targeting a #30 million reduction over five years, this represented a cut in resources of approximately 2%.

"There is a direct line from the decisions made by the trust to pursue foundation trust status in this reckless manner to the harm experienced by patients."

– Health minister Steve Barclay

Mr Barclay told MPs the Government accepted all the recommendations in the report and would seek to implement them as soon as possible.

Labour MP Ms Cooper, a member of the Health select committee, said she wanted to thank Dr Kirkup "on behalf of the staff and the patients in Liverpool who suffered really badly at the hands of this, I want to say dictatorship, regime, whatever it was".

She said it was "simply staggering" that senior staff at the trust "were able to inflict such harm on staff and patients and just walk into other senior NHS jobs with six-figure salaries".

She added: "Why wasn't the chief executive and this board fired? Why weren't they sacked? It is incomprehensible."

Ms Cooper warned of "another potential LCH" at the Wirral's hospital trust, adding it was important that justice is seen to be done.

"With governments of all parties, the higher echelons of the NHS have closed ranks to protect themselves and this has got to stop," she said.

"How will (Mr Barclay) assure this House that these matters will be dealt with properly by the executive, and there will be no more cover-ups?

"Cover-ups and backdoor deals have ended once and for all."

– Labour MP Ms Cooper

Sarah Wollaston, Tory chairwoman of the Health select committee, said:

On the wider issues raised by this report, clearly where you continue to cut staff and funding from community services, there are terrible consequences for patient care.

"Will the minister assure the House that he will be working closely alongside the Care Quality Commission to identify other trusts in which these kinds of issues are likely to arise, because of the workforce and funding pressures that are now being faced?"

– Sarah Wollaston, Tory chairwoman of the Health select committee

Mr Barclay said:

The report is very explicit in making clear that the finances were there for the existing service. That's set out at the outset of the report.

"What drove this was a wholly unrealistic attempt to seek foundation trust status with a cost improvement plan that was simply undeliverable."

– Health minister Steve Barclay