Cure the NHS, the organisation representing grieving relatives in Mid Staffordshire and Patients First have sent a scathing letter to our beloved leader and Prime Minister, David Cameron. It berates him for protecting NHS boss David Nicholson in the wake of the scandals besetting the NHS. It essentially accuse Cameron of having one rule for ordinary NHS staff (and bankers for that matter) and another for Nicholson…. Of having double standards no less.
The letter is an extraordinary indictment of the Government and its willingness to embrace the changes called for in the Francis Report. The first chance it get to change the culture by changing the head of the NHS it ducks based on what appear to be wholly improper grounds. Shocking.
Full text below:
23rd February 2013
Dear Prime Minister
Formal complaint against Sir David Nicholson
We refer to our letter of 14 February 2013 calling upon you to intervene and encourage David Nicholson to do the decent thing and resign as head of the NHS, in the wake of the Mid Staffordshire scandal.
To date we have not received a reply to our letter or even an acknowledgement. Media comments and articles lead us to believe that you continue to back and support Sir David. We are surprised at your reported comments commending Sir David for ‘the grip and grasp’ he has over the NHS and his ‘knowledge and understanding’ on the one hand and then not accepting that he either did or should have known about the problems the NHS faced in Mid Staffordshire and elsewhere and take personal responsibility. This with respect is contradictory and illogical.
Ministers seem to be encouraging regulatory authorities, and indeed the police to pursue individual members of staff in Mid-Staffs who have failed to fulfil their duties properly and effectively which is a proper course of action. We do not wish to condone any of those who failed but we do note that first Mid-Staffordshire report said that staff pursued targets at the expense of patient safety as they were in fear of losing their jobs. We note that the more recent report was critical of the ‘system. In some cases these two factors may have been a significant cause of an individual’s failure of judgement or conduct. We note and contrast the ministerial encouragement to pursue those individuals, who relented to this ‘system’ and ‘climate of fear’ and failed their duties, and the government’s refusal to pursue those who either created or failed to change that system or climate of fear. We find such double standards by the government totally indefensible and a travesty to the memory of patients who have unnecessarily died as a result. This is a deeply shameful and unjustifiable position for any government to adopt. It is even more shameful when it is suggested that the pursuit of Sir David would be scapegoating whilst the pursuit of other individuals is not.
Furthermore we contrast this astonish stance with the government’s frequent statements about the banking system, that staff must not be rewarding for failure, and its determination to hold the senior managers of banks accountable and take responsibility for the activities of all of their staff. We note, as the public will note, the inconsistency of the government that the same apparently does not apply to the NHS.
Furthermore we are extremely disturbed at media reports of your and Stephen Dorrell’s comments which amount to the protection of Sir David Nicholson because he has faithfully implemented government policies particularly at a time when the currently reform programme was extremely politically difficulty. We find it a shocking indictment of your government and public conduct and public behaviour for ministers to shield senior civil servants from true accountability because they have been politically loyal. It is even more shocking that occurs with a callous disregard for the views of grieving relatives.
Your refusal to intervene and the failure of moral leadership from the government together with Sir David’s unwillingness to resign, and take responsibility, leaves us with no alternative other than to submit a formal complaint to the Head of the Civil Service about Sir David and demand that it be thoroughly investigated.
You will be aware that complaints were first made in July 2012 and have not been investigated, through political interference or otherwise. We would ask for your assurance that there will be no political interference in this broader and more extensive complaint, which goes well beyond the confines of Mid Staffordshire, and that you will support our call for a full and thorough investigation to be carried out by an individual unconnected with government or the civil service. We would remind you of the Ministerial Code of Conduct. We will, when we submit the detailed allegations to the Head of the Civil Service, ask for similar assurances.
If any frontline professional neglected their duty with regard to raising concerns and listening to concerns this would be investigated and, should that investigation identify that there is a case to answer, would immediately face disciplinary proceedings. Often the member of staff would face a “non-detrimental” suspension. We ask that Sir David be treated no better or worse than any other NHS member of staff.
We wish to emphasise that the complaint to the Head of the Civil Service will not be a re-run of the Mid Staffordshire Inquiry which was about a narrow issue of one specific hospital. Indeed the Inquiry refused to accept evidence of broader NHS failures and so much of what we will raise has never been the subject of a proper independent investigation. It is now clear that there are widespread systemic failings in the NHS which Sir David has been responsible for leading. We utterly refute that this is scapegoating. It is holding those in a position of trust and authority to account.
You will be aware of the NHS Code of Conduct for Managers requires Sir David to ‘make the care and safety of patients my first concern and act to protect them from risk’ and ‘to accept responsibility for my own work and the proper performance of the people I manage’; you will also be aware of concerns about the use of public funds to protect personal or institutional reputations and the role of the Accounting Officer. In addition there are allegations concerning United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust.
From the above you will realise that we are truly horrified by media reports which suggestion that Sir David is not to be exposed to the same system of personal accountability you are proposing for the rest of the staff of the NHS, allegedly due to his close relationship with Ministers and the ‘debt’ owed to him by your party.
Dr Kim Holt, Consultant Paediatrician MBCHB BSc DCH MRCP MSc, Chair of ‘Patients First’ and Lead Consultant. Jennie Fecitt, RN, BSc (Hons), Specialist Practitioner (Adult Nursing), NMP, PGCE Lead Nurse, ‘Patients First’. Julie Bailey For ‘Cure the NHS’.