The first thing to remember is that criticism and whistleblowing will not to be tolerated, as British practice reminds us every day.
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Well, we didn’t know the half of it, although Mr. Cameron and Ms. Keen should have. It has now come to light that up to 1,200 — yes, that’s right, one thousand two hundred — patients may have died through bad nursing and filthy conditions at a single National Health Service hospital in Staffordshire.
This is not a matter of sensational or exaggerated media reporting. It is an official government figure. Britain’s bizarrely ineffectual Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Alan Johnson, the Health Secretary, have made abject if useless apologies in Parliament for the “inexcusable” failings (so far as I know nobody has made any apologies to Lord Mancroft).
The Prime Minister said: “We do apologize to all those people who have suffered from the mistakes that have been made in the Stafford Hospital,” adding that it “should never be allowed to happen again.” Indeed one might well agree that it shouldn’t be allowed to happen again. Whether or not it will be allowed to happen again, however, is another matter entirely.
Johnson told the Parliament that the failings were “inexcusable.” He said that the official report detailed “astonishing failures at every level,” adding, “It is a catalogue of individual and systemic failings that have no place in any NHS hospital, but which were allowed to happen by a board that steadfastly refused to acknowledge the serious concerns about the poor standard of care raised by patients and staff.” In another, not so distant, age which took honor seriously, under the doctrine of ministerial responsibility there is no doubt that the minister whose department was responsible would have resigned.
Families described some neglected patients at the hospital drinking water from flower vases because they were so thirsty — it was apparently beyond the interest or the competence of the nursing staff or any supervisors to get them a glass of water — and others screaming in pain. Patients described one ward as a “war zone” and said people were often left waiting in Accident and Emergency for hours covered in their own blood and without pain relief even with serious injuries. Others were left without food or drink, some received the wrong medication, or none at all, and blood and feces were left on lavatories and on floors.
A government commission launched an inquiry after concerns were raised about the high death-rates at the hospital between 2005 and last year. This followed prolonged efforts to bring the matter to official attention by the daughters of two elderly patients who were horrified by the treatment their mothers received,
Its report said that the trust responsible for administering the hospital argued at first that these high death-rates were due to problems with its recording of data rather than the quality of care for patients. This explanation was rejected and a formal investigation was begun last year, examining more than 1,000 documents and interviewing 300 people. It found deficiencies at virtually every stage, including inadequately trained staff who were too few in number and dirty wards and bathrooms.
Poorly-trained nurses turned off equipment because they did not know how to work it, newly-qualified doctors were left to care for patients recovering from surgery at night, patients were left for hours in soiled bedclothes, and reception staff with no medical training whatsoever were expected to judge the seriousness of the condition of patients arriving at accident and emergency admission. It was a far cry from George Orwell’s pre-war observation, made when compiling a grim chronicle of the conditions of the British poor, that, whatever else might be said against it, Britain then had a class of highly professional and efficient nurses.
Doctors were diverted from serious to minor problems to stop the trust breaching the government’s four-hour waiting time target. Patients’ relatives told of nurses shouting at patients, staff failing to treat patients with compassion or dignity and respect, lack of help with meals or drinks (a matter that has been the subject of complaints in many other stories of British hospitals — frail or comatose patients being tossed sealed packets of sandwiches that they are too weak to open, for example), and failures to treat bed-sores. (When my mother was a nurse she told me there would be serious professional and career trouble for any nurse who, as distinct from failing to treat a patient’s bed-sore, allowed one to develop at all.)
Two-thirds of the doctors said they would not be happy to have their own relatives treated at the hospital.
The trust, it was found, was concerned with “targets,” gaining Foundation Trust status and PR marketing and had lost sight of patient care. The report went on that it was not yet clear how many patients died as a direct result but mortality rates in emergency care were between 27% and 45% higher than would be expected, equating to between 400 and 1,200 more deaths over the period.
Sir Ian Kennedy, chairman of the Healthcare Commission, said the report was a shocking story and that there were failures at almost every stage of care of emergency patients: “There is no doubt that patients will have suffered and some of them will have died as a result.” Sir Bruce Keogh, medical director of the NHS, described the failures as a “gross and terrible breach of trust.”
Now patient groups say that managers who failed to raise the alarm have been promoted to key jobs in the NHS and healthcare regulation.
Trust chief executive Martin Yeates and chairman Toni Brisby both stepped down recently and Yeates, who is reportedly paid a salary of £160,000, is suspended on full pay while an independent investigation is carried out.
Director of the Patients’ Association, Katherine Murphy, said: “How can any patient have trust in the managers and systems that have allowed this disaster to run and run? It is not enough for the Chairman and Chief Executive to take the fall for this. Government targets have directly impaired safe clinical practice and money and greed for Foundation Trust benefits has taken priority over patients’ lives.”
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?