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Thursday 7 March 2013

Stafford Hospital – Closure Under Smokescreen

[Update at end of post]

The efforts of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre to say whatever it takes to make David Nicholson’s position untenable continue today, providing a convenient smokescreen under whose cover Stafford Hospital can be gradually closed, with this being sold to an all too compliant public as an inevitable consequence of a death toll that did not in fact occur.

These actions may by happening by fortunate coincidence, but the effect will be the same as if there was deliberate connection. What is not coincidental is the reaction of politicians, which has shown who cares about those they represent, and who is mere lobby fodder. But first to the Mail, where Stephen “miserable git” Glover has blamed Young Dave’s Nicholson decision on, er, Labour.

This is because Labour was in Government during the period when there were episodes of poor care at Stafford Hospital. Glover then drops in “the needless, unforgiveable deaths of 1,200 people” and – hey presto! – Labour is in reality revealed to be a mass killing machine, and not really a political party at all. Facts have been left behind in pursuit of “getting Nicholson”.

Those “1,200 deaths”, as I’ve already pointed out, depend on extrapolating from Hospital Standardised Mortality Ratios (HSMRs) which have been shown to be at the very least misleading, and at worst plain flat wrong. But the meme has been remorselessly repeated – generally at the behest of editors and politicians who go private – and so has become the legend that is now printed.

Thus the smokescreen. In the meantime, the downgrading of Stafford Hospital has been planned, with maternity services slated to move to Stoke-on-Trent and Wolverhampton. Accident and Emergency (A&E) and paediatric services “could” follow, for which read will follow, only at a later date. So what have the area’s politicians had to say about the situation?

Stafford’s Tory MP Jeremy Lefroy has expressed his forthright opposition. So has Council leader Mike Heenan, also representing the Blue Team. “Extreme concernhas been expressed by independently minded Tory MP Bill Cash, who represents the adjacent constituency of Stone. But one Parliamentarian has indicated his approval for the downgrading of Stafford Hospital.

It will surprise nobody to know that the approving voice is that of Aidan Burley, who sits for Cannock Chase. This is a combination of rank selfishness – Cannock will retain its hospital – and grovelling conformity, with Burley desperate to remain on the right side of the Tory establishment following his contretemps with the French authorities over that stag party with its Nazi overtones.

But it should be about folks in Stafford, not selfish MPs or vengeful editors.

[UPDATE 1640 hours: a useful analysis has been provided by Computer Weekly, from which some quotations stand out and bear repetition.

On the subject of "avoidable deaths", Roger Taylor of Dr Foster Intelligence stressed "There is no number for the actual people who might have died avoidably ... it is impossible to put an actual figure on it". This has not stopped hacks and pundits (see above).

Robert Francis QC, who chaired the inquiries into Stafford Hospital, said "Unjustifiable conclusions continue to be drawn from the numbers of deaths at hospitals and about the number of avoidable deaths ... HSMR cannot and does not claim to establish whether any particular death or group of deaths was avoidable".

So why is the press, led by the Daily Mail, not merely suggesting otherwise, but asserting so as a matter of fact (ditto an increasing number of other papers and media outlets)?]

1 comment:

SimonB said...

It's a pity Private Eye seem to have bought the fake Stafford stats. There was a hint of Nick Cohen's style in the article though.