So now Bruce Keogh’s report into fourteen NHS Trusts has been published, and we can not only compare the reality with some of the less well informed spin, but also see that a clear path has been mapped to achieve a better quality of outcomes for those using the Service. And the first conclusion has to be that far too many of the press reports were not just exaggerated, but substantially fabricated.
You thought just their sports reporting was rubbish?
Whether it was the Telegraph pitching the “13,000 deaths” figure, the Mail talking of those “doomed to die within the NHS”, or the Sun screaming “Labour’s cover-up at horror hospitals”, the usual suspects in the attack dog firmament got it badly wrong, so wrong that they have done their credibility yet more damage as a result. And all have failed to understand that there is a clear appetite for improvement.
But improvement does not come through the consistency of dishonesty, and moreover that approach will not convince those who are generally supportive of the NHS, yet are aware that it can fall short at times. Take the overview set out by Sue Marsh earlier today (Sue’s “Diary Of A Benefit Scrounger” should be required reading) in which she talks of NHS shortcomings, but sees the bigger picture.
Yet what has very clearly been done with the Keogh review is to brief the more impressionable parts of the Fourth Estate with conclusions that the report does not make. That briefing has to have come from the Government, and the culprit appears to be none other than Jeremy Hunt (the former Culture Secretary). The hacks do not get away with it either, as the real findings were not hard to find.
When the deeply subversive Guardian went looking for Keogh’s findings, they found he had said this about indicators such as Hospital Standardised Mortality Ratios: “However tempting it may be, it is clinically meaningless and academically reckless to use such statistical measures to quantify actual numbers of avoidable deaths”. This is word for word accurate (it’s on Page 5 of the report).
Why there is an apparent divergence between the reality of the report and the version put out by Tories and their press supporters is not hard to find: Keogh talks of helping Trusts to improve, of developing much more coherent indicators of death rates, of greater participation, of more transparency, of ensuring safe staffing levels, of improving staff motivation and morale.
On the other hand, Hunt and his cheerleaders talk of failure, “13,000 deaths”, “horror hospitals”, patients “doomed to die”, of the NHS not being capable of fitness for purpose, and all the time not letting slip that, as with schools, the ones baying the loudest are those whose families go private, and want everyone else to do likewise so they can save a few quid on their tax bills.
Then they wonder why faith in politicians and the press is so diminished.