Campaigners ‘shaming NHS chief’ into resigning

NHS chief executive David Nicholson faces a silent vigil from protesters in Manchester today, as pressure on him to resign continues to step up.

Victims' friends and families from the Cure The NHS group which began in Stafford are gathering outside the offices of the NHS commissioning board in Manchester.

"We're hoping to shame the man into giving his resignation and to expose that he has failed in a big way," founder Julie Bailey, whose mother died at Stafford hospital during the period when 1,200 unnecessary deaths were recorded, told

"I believe the person in charge of the NHS is the person that's accountable for failings within the NHS, just like in any other sector," she said.

"What's happened over the years in the NHS has been a decline in standards. One of the things that came out in David Nicholson's evidence was he took his eye off quality – his priority was finance. That to me is unforgivable."

Nicholson's position was defended by Robert Francis' final report into the failings at Mid-Staffordshire, which said "scapegoats" should be avoided.

"I feel as if we were sitting in different inquiries, Robert Francis and I," Bailey added.

"What played out to me was a failure right from the top to the bottom."

Francis has recommended an increased reliance on regulatory bodies like the Care Quality Commission, but patients' confidence in this solution has been dented by the belief they failed to make a difference.

Derek Butler, chief executive of MRSA UK, backed calls for Nicholson to go by saying the phrase 'the buck stops here' should apply to Nicholson as much as anyone else.

"A chief executive is a person who's supposed to show leadership and accountability – and the one who, when things fail, carries the can for the failures because he's in the charge," he told

"The definition of a scapegoat is someone who knew nothing of the problem. David Nicholson knew what was going on at Mid-Staffs while he was head of the West Midlands Strategic Health Authority and, from 2007, as the chief executive of the NHS."

Cameron appeared to subtly shift his language during prime minister's questions yesterday, when Tory backbencher Charlotte Leslie – who also wants Nicholson to quit – pressed him on the issue.

"The whole point about the Francis report is that we should use this as an opportunity to say, 'yes, of course we support the NHS and its founding principles, but not everything in the NHS is right'," the prime minister said.

"Where there is bad practice and where things are going wrong, we need to shine a very bright light on it and make sure not only that we deal with it but that we hold people to account."

Sixteen MPs, including 12 Conservatives, have now signed Leslie's motion calling for Nicholson to resign.