Following the publishing of the Keogh Report Secretary of State Hunt has issued warlike declarations in favour of the continuation of ConDem health policies. The report, which looked into 14 hospitals across England, found the same pattern of problems that were exposed in the Mid-Staffordshire Trust by the Francis Report.
These were deaths due to staff cuts and underfunding, a culture of managerialism and target setting, hiding and misrepresenting the facts, coercion to maintain silence and the bullying of whistle-blowers. Both reports found these to be common features of the hospitals and Trusts concerned.
Hunt blamed staff for high mortality rates. He blamed the past Labour government for taking no responsibility. But it is the ConDem government’s policy that is to blame for recent deaths, just as it was New Labour’s policies that led to high mortality rates previously.
The NHS has faced decades of reorganisation, modernisation, marketisation and privatisation as well as the undermining of its key principles by stealth or more openly. It is no longer comprehensively free at the point of use so it is no longer universal. The NHS is seriously damaged,
The market in health services has led to poor care, deaths and a culture of secrecy and of lying. Since the ConDem coalition government was formed, the NHS has lost front line staff especially nurses – the 11 trusts placed on specials measures have lost 1,100 nurses between them.
Under-staffing has been blamed for the deaths at the 14 hospitals reported on by the Keogh Report. Also highlighted is a reliance on sub-standard agency staff and the working of unsafe shift patterns e.g. 12 days in a row including some 14 hour days. Nights and weekends have particularly low nursing numbers and a minimal consultant medical staff so not surprisingly deaths were and are particularly high then.
Staffing levels and staff morale are directly linked to death rates. Staff concerns were ignored and health workers were bullied to remain quiet.
Unions have long pointed to problems in staffing levels and quality of care provided to our families, while all too often individual health staff did not wish to put their heads above the parapet.
The challenge is to keep telling the truth and speak out for the patients, our families and the 95% who are working class. Managerialism does not have the answers. The wealth of skills and experience is with health staff – doctors and porters, nurses and estates craft-workers, therapists and administrative staff, domestics and technicians. Knowledge of what needs to be done and ultimately how to provide a better and decent health service resides in the unions and professional organisations. A Vision for Health.
Hunt has mounted a squalid defence of ConDem health policiy, by attacking New Labour’s cover-ups. Either way the neoliberal practices of both parties killed people. The issue for us is this: do we allow many more deaths or do we speak out and act to protect patients. Our judges should be our work colleagues, our families, our unions, and our Class.