If a private business in Britain had killed up to 1,200 of its customers over a four year period, there would be unprecedented outrage. If a supermarket had done this, the business would be shut down, its directors and managers dismissed and put on trial facing long prison sentences. Stafford Hospital is part of the NHS and none of this has happened. A public enquiry report has made 290 recommendations, but no-one has been held accountable and punished. Some of the descriptions of neglect and abuse make harrowing reading, with patients left in soiled bed-linen, crying out in pain yet denied pain relief, their food and water left out of reach. Other NHS trusts with higher than expected mortality rates are under investigation. Yes, this is the NHS, second to none, the envy of the world, the jewel in the crown.
The fact is that an NHS hospital is a dangerous place, especially if patients are elderly and frail, as many are. They stand exposed to the above treatment, at significant risk of a hospital-acquired infection, and with a measurable chance of dying from something other than what they were admitted for. It is all very well to speak of a remote Ministry of Health or of lack of managerial control, of uncaring bureaucracy and the pursuit of financial targets at the expense of patient care. These are all endemic to the way the NHS is structured. They happen because the organization does not work. The massive scale, the central direction, the overall tax-funded budget are recipes for lack of attention to detail, the one thing that healthcare should be about. The time has now come to admit the folly and to wind up the NHS and replace it by a better system of healthcare.
Filed under: Updates