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Monday 7 January 2013

Stafford Hospital – Public Bad, Private Good

All those who use the facilities of the NHS in Staffordshire are waiting for the final report from Robert Francis QC into what went wrong within the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust – for which read Stafford Hospital – between 2005 and 2009. There were many patient deaths over and above what might have been expected, and deeply unsatisfactory shortcomings in patient care.

But the users of that hospital are not the only ones waiting eagerly for the Francis Report: each and every one of those, mainly on the right, who holds any kind of antipathy towards the NHS, is already talking up the report as bringing condemnation on the entire Service. That the report is into just one Foundation Trust is not so much as considered, as ever wilder speculation is allowed to take hold.

One thing that Francis will not be recommending is that Stafford Hospital is closed, which should tell you something about improvements which have been put in place since 2009, and the support of the community in making them. Moreover, that the reporting may have been based more on speculation than on available fact has been pointed up by one local campaigner.

Diana Smith – whose account will no doubt be dismissed because she is a member of her local Labour Party – spent months attending the hearings, and found that despite fifty seats being reserved for the press, “Most days there were two occupied ... Sometimes there was someone from regional BBC or from the Health Service Journal and on days when dramatic revelations were eagerly anticipated we sometimes saw one or two national reporters”.

She also pointed out that “All of the journalists appeared to accept without question that there had been large numbers of unexpected deaths, despite the fact that this has never appeared in any report ... These excess death figures, like the current front page splashes, started life as unattributed leaks”.

That has not caused any restraint from the usual suspects: at the Murdoch Sun, obedient retainer Trevor Kavanagh describes a report he has not seen as “Truly horrifying”. Wards “were nicknamed ‘Beirut’”. Taxpayers “when they come to use [the NHS], are terrified of going into hospital ... they fear they will never leave alive”. This weapons grade bullshit is matched by the Telegraph.

Here, it is claimed that the Francis report has already been seen, so it is asserted on several occasions what he “will say”. Readers are assured that “Sweeping reforms of the NHS will be demanded”. All those condemning the NHS tell that it doesn’t happen if you go private, while not letting readers know that the private sector doesn’t do A&E, and dumps its emergencies ... on the NHS.

But the agenda of bashing the public sector is satisfied, so that’s all right, then.


Anonymous said...

I'd really recommend you do some more research around this, I'd recommend reading the Francis' report conclusions for a start. The hacks (including those from the left like the guardian) know something very wrong here, 3 inquiries have already found problems although didn't list the number of unexpected deaths the papers estimated and the then health secretary Alan Johnson apologised for "hundreds of unnecessary deaths".

To reply to part of Diana Smith quote, the anonymous leaking of death statistics (which the regulators should have acted upon) may have something to do with the appalling treatment of whistle blowers by the NHS, I'd recommend the excellent private eye special "shoot the messenger" as a starting point to see how toxic the culture is.

Its not a case of private vs public its a culture of secrecy and reputation protection rather than patient safety and highlights the frankly dangerous shortcomings of the regulators.

Tim Fenton said...

Thanks for that - I'll wait for the Francis "final" report before revisiting the subject.

(For anyone unfamiliar with the geography, Stafford is not so far from Crewe, so there is considerable local interest, even though our main facility at Leighton has not suffered such shortcomings)