Opinion Former Article

MRSA Action UK: Let whoever is in charge keep this simple question in mind “How can I provide for this right thing to be always done?”

When our Prime Minister was elected to his position he stated very clearly that his Government would be one that is transparent, open, and accountable to the people of this country. How sad it is then, that when the first real test arrives David Cameron has left himself wanting for his lack of action in having those involved in the Mid-Staffordshire debacle accountable for their insensitivities to patients’ and families’ concerns.

The Prime Minister says that Sir David Nicholson should not be made a scapegoat for what happened at Mid-Staffordshire. We would remind the Prime Minister that the definition of a scapegoat is someone who is blamed for something that they neither knew about of had control over, on both these counts Sir David knew what was happening and had control over, but chose to do nothing about it, therefore he is not the scapegoat but, in our opinion, culpable and should go now.

In the wake of the Francis report on the debacle at Mid-Staffordshire hospital there seems to be a double standard in comparison to the Leveson Inquiry where perpetrators have been charged for their part in the hacking scandal, yet nothing has been done regarding the deaths of as many as 1,200 people from the Mid-Staffordshire debacle.

As the Chair of MRSA Action UK from observations of other events in the past such as Basildon and Thurrock, Furness General Hospital and Maidstone and Tunbridge NHS Trusts, there is a root and branch failing of leadership and accountability at the patient level.

One expects that a Chief Executive of any organisation has to demonstrate leadership which is significantly missing in the NHS. This would also apply to the leader of a country such as our Prime Minister, his role is to protect and serve the people of the United Kingdom.

One would think that good patient care would be a marker for diligence and commitment and shows that staff are taking their work seriously. The events in Mid-Staffordshire, Basildon and Thurrock, Furness General Hospital and Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trusts have shown conditions like this are a visible sign of a bureaucracy in crisis.

Keeping a patient safe and receiving good quality care does not, in my opinion, require money or expensive equipment.  However, it does require the will to provide safe, quality care.  It requires someone to exercise authority and to take responsibility on the behalf of the patient which is all too clearly lacking within the NHS today.

The Department of Health has to be questioned as to why it did not pick up on the concerns of patients and their families who have been telling them that the system and the staff in the NHS have been failing them.  An apology from Department of Health officials is both too little and too late when they protect each other from their own failings. After years of dealing with senior figures within the Department of Health, this is not the first time that patient care and dignity has been failed by those who we expect to care for loved ones and yet we hear from them that “Patient safety is always our first concern”.  Words are not good enough; it is time to put those words in to practice, otherwise what is the point of the Department of Health or a Health Minister.  It is a toothless tiger as one senior civil servant told us.

The emphasis, it would seem to us over the years has shifted from the well-being and rights of the patient and their families to the well-being of staff despite the protestations of the Prime Minister, Health Ministers and Department of Health officials.  It would seem that modern management in the NHS is there to nurture its employees.  The perception from the Francis Inquiry is that no-one is to be disciplined for leaving a patient lying in his or her own excrement for hours at a time or ensuring that food and water or prescribed medication are received at the correct time that ultimately lead to the deaths of 1200 people.

No-one is reprimanded for leaving a ward in a dirty and filthy condition leaving mess all over the place or for the fact that patients are left without water within reach on trolleys or that patients are left in corridors or spoken to in an inappropriate manner. Transgressors often do not get a telling off. They have to be spoken to, as one sister complained to me, in "a nice soft voice" and offered more training.

What is most damning and the questions have to be asked, is why the silence from the Labour opposition, who you would have thought would have been making statements regarding the Francis report and challenging the Government. From our view the perception would seem, politicians, Ministers and those senior figures within the Department of Health do not want to change the system that protects them so much.

What is needed is a different thinking approach we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used to create them, or in fact the same people

It is time for those who were responsible for this terrible debacle to go so that others can be introduced to cure a health system that is in critical condition and our Prime Minister should be decisive now and not dither.

Derek Butler
MRSA Action UK
Telephone: 07762 741114
Email: derek.butler@mrsaactionuk.net

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