Wednesday, 24 February 2010


It seems to me that often there are things going on in government, in the establishment, in business, that you can’t quite believe are true... and yet they are. The “you couldn’t make this up” tag is getting old now. People are getting used to the unbelievable, so you probably could make it up.

So it is with Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust. I listened with growing dismay and disbelief at 6 o’clock to the list of horror stories in the report of Robert Francis QC.

It found that patients "suffered horrific experiences that will haunt them and their loved ones for the rest of their lives ... There can no longer be any doubt as to the enormity of what occurred". The most basic elements of care were neglected and patients were left humiliated and sobbing. They were left in sheets soiled with urine and faeces for considerable periods of time.

There were falls suffered by patients, some of which led to serious injury; the attitude of nursing staff was well below an acceptable standard; relatives had to take bedding home to wash; there was insufficient care for patients' dignity; visitors had to remove used dressings from public areas and clean toilets themselves.

It would break the heart of most people to see their sick or elderly relative and friends in such a situation, and it set me to wonder what kind of people comprised not only the management (who in my opinion should now all be in prison), but the medical staff, the nurses, the cleaners, ambulance people and admin staff. For example, what kind of doctors work in such a situation without exploding with anger?
Some staff did report their concerns, but nothing was done. So why then didn’t they go to the police or to the local MP?

How did this situation come about? How did an organisation, funded by the tax payer, set up to make people well, become this travesty? Why were we paying people to behave like this?

Well, it seems that the answer is our old friend “Targets”. The Trust hit targets and achieved Tony Blair's elite foundation status. Bravo. But in order to do it, it was necessary to treat patients in a way that would be illegal were they farmyard animals.

The English Health Secretary said that lessons would be learned so that this could never happen again; the Prime Minister described the situation as completely unacceptable. Not enough.

I’d have said it was criminal negligence. I hope that people will bring prosecutions on the management or that at least they will never again be allowed to work in a profession caring for others

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