Deaths in the NHS: We can no longer wait for inquiries and reports
Today sees the publication of Bruce Keogh’s report into 14 hospital Trusts which have been identified as having higher than average, alarming, death rates. It follows the scandal at Mid-Staffordshire Hospital, where hundreds of patients died, many elderly, in appalling circumstances.
The deaths at the centre of the Mid-Staffs enquiry happened over many years. It took enormous pressure from bereaved relatives and so-called ‘whistle-blowers’ to help to expose the poor care and abuse of patients. Whilst these people fought for answers and justice for their relatives, the abuse and deaths continued. It took years for the Francis Inquiry to be set up to investigate root and branch what was behind such failure.
Likewise, we hear that the death rates in these further hospitals have been cause for alarm for some years. What has been needed and has been clearly lacking is an immediate response when things start to go wrong, to stop the rot setting in, to change the culture and to protect the most vulnerable. This hasn’t happened. Coroners’ inquests that may uncover such practices have taken years to come to a hearing, The Care Quality Commission set up to monitor hospitals and ensure care is of an acceptable standard has been an abject failure; it has given clean bills of health to hospitals now identified within the Keogh inquiry.
It is expected that out of the Keogh review will come recommendations for ‘hit-squads’ that will parachute into failing hospitals and that others will be put under special measures, so that they are closely monitored and forced to make immediate improvements or face dismissal of management. This plan for an immediate response is vital. Too often we are looking at events years ago, Trusts can claim events are historical and things have changed, focus is deflected.
There are many more examples of outstanding care in the NHS than poor care, but if we are to avoid further scandals such as Mid-Staffs and ensure patients are kept safe from poor care and abuse, immediate and firm action is needed.
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