MPs are also partly to blame for the Mid-Staffs NHS scandal

4:57 pm - February 7th 2013

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by Claudia Tomlinson

When Julie Bailey, founder of Cure the NHS (@curetheNHS) campaign group, contacted her local MP about the horrors at Mid Staffordshire NHS trust, to her great anger, she was invited to a Labour Party meeting instead.

The MP for Stafford between 1997 and 2010 was David Kidney (@davidkidney), the crucial period when patients suffered so grievously. He had extensive knowledge of the hospital, and even worked there during the Parliamentary summer recess to better understand the environment.

Ms Bailey wrote to him detailing her suffering of her mother who died at the hospital during this period, only to receive a very complacent response. The Francis Inquiry report states about Ms Bailey:

She felt that Mr Kidney’s reply effectively denied the low standard of care evidenced by her and other constituents’ experiences at the hospital.

Kidney isn’t the only MP who came off poorly in the report, they were criticised for simply passing on complaints received from constituents back to the hospital. A year after she first made her complaint to Kidney, Ms Bailey and 30 members of her campaign group visited his surgery and individually described their awful experiences.

He responded by agreeing to arrange a meeting between the group and the hospital staff, the very organisation that had harmed them and their loved ones, then put up a wall of silence to their complaints.

MPs should have served their constituents better, and certainly not offered invitations to a party policy development group, at which their experiences would provide the Party with political leverage, but do nothing for patients and relatives. Ms Bailey was upset that her MP appeared to be using her suffering to further the work of his Party.

The inquiry report gently asks them to do better next time and deferentially asks them to consider developing systems to allow them to pick up on systematic organisational failure. Rightly, it acknowledges that MPs are not health regulators, but also point out they can be held to account by their electorate and should do better.

None of the local MPs, including David Kidney has been apportioned blame in the report, for after all, the damage was within hospital walls, but the report cites their parliamentary code of conduct for MPs:

Members have a general duty to act in the interests of the nation as a whole, and a special duty to their constituents.

There are clearly competing demands between the needs of the Party and the needs of constituents. This was a situation where the constituent’s needs should have been paramount.

Claudia Tomlinson tweets from here and blogs here.

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Reader comments

New Labour softened the NHS up for privatisation with constant reorganisations introducing more and more cynical market mechanisms. Today we have a self-serving bureaucratic management headed by those appointed as the result of political patronage and Old School Tie nepotism and now that private companies have taken over the provision of NHS services they are joined by a gaggle of self-serving fat cat executives appointed by indifferent (except to profit) shareholders set to make things worse.

Occupy Health! It is time managers and leaders of hospitals, trusts were elected by those who work for them. Committess of all grades of staff should challenge for management and demand the reversal of the privatisation of service provision. Only engaged staff can save health service in the UK now from asset strippers, cherry pickers and indifference. Service users and communities should support them in this.

2. the a&e charge nurse

Not just David Kidney, relatives “singled out Andy Burnham, the former health secretary, for criticism, arguing that he put forward Mid Staffordshire NHS trust, which runs Stafford, to be considered for elite foundation trust status without first checking its safety and quality. Under Labour, freeing NHS hospitals from central government control became a key policy”.
And not only that, but for refusing to order a public inquiry in 2009

Ask yourself this – what did NuLab health minister get up to after moving on from this role – perhaps Oor Jackie Milburn, or Patricia Hewitt could elaborate further?


Hewitt’s dead, and I’m guessing you mean Alan Milburn?

Hewitt was a prime example of the corruption at the top in our country.

So now we know. Britain’s nurses and doctors are as bad as Britain’s bankers. NHS staff can be just as selfish, arrogant, manipulative and secretive, as the spivs in pinstripes.

Arguably, they’re worse. The bankers bled the country dry, but they didn’t kill anybody. The death toll at Mid Staffs is placed at 1,200 victims. And that may be a conservative estimate. I saw an aged aunt appallingly treated in my local hospital in 1993 -water and (substandard) food placed out of her reach while four nurses sat about reading frivolous magazines.

And now the blame game has started…Senior management, Tony Blair and Alan Milburn, and (inevitably, sooner or later) Margaret Thatcher. But there is a much more simple reason why these NHS staff left those in their care to die in pools of their own shit. It’s because they could.

Who was there to challenge them? The patients themselves? They were helpless. The managers? They were covering their own backs. The relatives? Their elected representatives, like Mr Kidney?

The NHS is a state religion, and to suggest that its centralised, bureaucratic, producer-led culture often results in poor outcomes is heresy. Mr Kidney was being true to his perverse socialist faith in the NHS – “the envy of the world”.

“The report cites the parliamentary code of conduct for MPs: Members have a general duty to act in the interests of the nation as a whole, and a special duty to their constituents.”

Anyone who has entered into dialogue with an MP about any subject will recognise the problem. MPs see themselves as postmen, passing on complaints up the chain, and passing back the answers. Constituents are quite capable of doing that themselves;the role of an MP should be to fight back against the evasive answers, even when it involves potential red faces for their own party.

“Modernisation” of political parties has led to MPs and party members seeing themselves as being answerable to party leaders rather than as representatives of the people holding the leaders to account.

“these tragic events prove that my particular view is correct. They also prove that if policies I am in favour of are not implemented, further similar tragedies will occur. They also prove that people who have different views to my own are supporting evil events such as these”

So how many people have read the full report then?

Hopefully Mid-Staffs will be the NHS’s Savile moment and people will realise, at last, that this much loved British institution is not in fact all warm and cuddly and that it’s bogus, media inspired status masks a much more sinister reality.

From the US:

“In the US, we start with a baseline of about 100,000 people being unnecessarily killed each year in hospitals, and many more suffering from unnecessary complications, infections, and other morbidities. In the US, we have introduced a set of metrics about clinical care, generated by bureaucratic forces, that are often arbitrary and have the potential for unintended consequences. Our accreditation process encourages “teaching to the test” as opposed to evaluating systemic issues within institutions. Likewise, our review process for graduate medical education programs fails to enforce standards of competency that ostensibly are required for residents.

In the US, we have engaged in a restructuring of the industry that shifts financial risk to doctors and hospitals and that encourages consolidation and reduces competition. Repeating our failures in investment markets, we fail to regulate providers to see if they are financially capable of absorbing risk. We celebrate the expanded role of private equity firms in owning and operating hospitals, with an ostrich-like approach to understanding how such firms create profit. The potential for short cuts and under-treatment and degradation of clinical equipment and hospital infrastructure arises in these circumstances. Meanwhile, we fail to provide the kind of real-time transparency of clinical outcomes, pricing, and financial results that would help hold institutions accountable to themselves and to the broader community.”

planeshift @ 9:

“In the US, we start with a baseline of about 100,000 people being unnecessarily killed each year in hospitals, and many more suffering from unnecessary complications, infections, and other morbidities.”

Yes, the US system and the UK system have relatively poor outcomes. That only proves, of course, that the UK should move away from the centralised, command-and-control, producer-led model to something much more like the French and German models. And, in Germany, the majority of hospitals are privately owned or run.

10. the a&e charge nurse

“And, in Germany, the majority of hospitals are privately owned or run” – yes, scandals do not visit the private sector, do they?

Aecn @ 11:

“yes, scandals do not visit the private sector, do they?”

Of course, they do; and I never claimed they didn’t. For patients to be safe in hospitals, there are at least two necessary conditions: (a) patient choice and (b) adequate regulation. Neither of these obtain sufficiently in the NHS.

At Winterbourne, (b) was missing, as employees reported what was happening to local social services and the CQC but nothing was done, and (a) was limited because the patients were exclusively people with learning disabilities.

Meanwhile, in the NHS, some 20 hospitals are to be investigated for their excess death rates….Parts of the NHS are world class, much of it is inefficient and not customer-focussed, and some of it is grim and cruel.

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