In the next few days the NHS will be rocked by the publication of the final report into the events at Mid Staffordshire. The first report concluded that ‘there was an atmosphere in which front line staff and managers were led to believe that if the targets were not met they would be in danger of losing their jobs’.
Put another and rather more stark and brutal way – killing patients was less likely to be career limiting than missing a target. Many other reports into the NHS have made similar points (in a rather less emotive way) but the time has come to challenge those who run the NHS, who seem to have lost sight of its purpose. Senior NHS officials turned up to the Mid Staffs Inquiry and tried to tell the Chairman of the Inquiry, Robert Francis QC, that Mid Staffs was a one off. Other, rather more compelling evidence was given, that whilst its scale may have been one off, other hospitals have problems. Those of you who know me will be aware that I was Chair of ULHT, our local hospitals trust and resigned over concerns that staff were being put under pressure to meet targets at the expense of safety. I was vilified by the NHS for so doing but it has an all too familiar ring………
Even more worrying ULHT have spent £0.5m on gagging its former Chief Executive, Gary Walker, who claims he was ousted for refusing to put targets before safety. Under the deal 3,000 pages of documents to support his claims have been locked away from us, the public. Such secrecy from an organisation supposed to serve us is worrying. To add insult to injury they used money intended for patient care to fund this cover up. This does not inspire confidence. Worse the Trust has relatively high mortality rates as reported by the BBC here based upon research by Dr Foster which can be found here. In addition a number of FOI’s have not been answered and journalists have complained that serious incident data published by many other hospitals has been denied to them by ULHT.
ULHT may not be on the scale of a Mid Staffs – I think the staff are too good to allow that to happen – but the pressures they are put under, the mortality data and the lack of openness their leaders show is worrying to put it mildly.
Do you want to go to hospitals where its managers may be more focused on the latest target rather than the quality of your care? I think we should be worried.