There has been no sterner critic of David Nicholson, who is to retire from his post as CEO of NHS England, than the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre and his rabble of attack doggies at the Daily Mail. So when Nicholson announced his forthcoming departure yesterday, it might have been thought that Dacre would order his troops over the top in one last orgy of crowing.their assault on Nicholson has been incessant this year, and for one main reason, the fall-out from the poor standards of care on some wards at Stafford Hospital. That there were many incidences of sub-standard care, which caused distress to many patients, is not in doubt. What is also not in doubt is that Stafford Hospital has now turned the situation around completely.
But that is not enough for the Mail, which has also incessantly pushed the idea that “up to 1,200” patients “died needlessly” at Stafford Hospital. This figure has been comprehensively debunked, and anyone needing the background, and detail, should look no further than Steve Walker’s excellent blog on the affair, where he reveals that the number of actual unnecessary deaths was “maybe one”.
Moreover, when Roger Taylor, of DFI, the company that supplies the data for Hospital Standardised Mortality Ratios (HSMRs), the source of the “1,200 deaths” claim, was asked “Where does Dr Foster stand on the portrayal of the figures about Mid Staffordshire as indicating or showing that there were 400 to 1,200 unnecessary deaths?” he replied “that is a misuse of these data”.
Yes, there was unnecessary suffering by many patients, which was inexcusable, but the constant repetition of “1,200 deaths” – which is then personalised to cause readers to believe that Nicholson was personally and directly involved – is equally inexcusable. But, now that Nicholson has signalled his departure, the Mail, although it devotes one article to the event, is surprisingly low key on the matter.
Why should this be? Ah well. Now that Dacre and his attack doggies have got the result they want, they are now shifting their attack on the NHS elsewhere: today has brought an assault on GPs, who are asserted not to be doing their jobs properly and therefore overloading hospital A&E departments. This attack will, it is also asserted, be joined later by Jeremy Hunt, no longer the Culture Secretary.
So those in Northcliffe House are maintaining their campaign to demonise the NHS, which they can do from a position of some comfort, as most of them go private and resent having to chip in for the great unwashed to access health care without being forced to open their wallets first (Paul Dacre is a fan of doing things the way they do them in the USA). Nothing has changed with Nicholson’s retirement.
The sad thing is that some believe the Mail is on their side. How wrong can you get?