Inquiry Finds Government-Run Hospital Inhumane and Appalling
By Jerry A. Kane
An independent investigation reports that heath care providers at a National Health Service hospital caused “unimaginable” suffering to patients. The devastating report finds that the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust (hospital) in the United Kingdom routinely subjected sick and dying patients to “inhumane treatment” through neglect and by leaving hundreds to die in squalor.
The inquiry, released February 24, said hospital administrators allowed staff numbers to fall “dangerously low,” preventing nurses from providing basic care, which led to the following list of horrors:
- Patients were left unwashed in their own filth for up to a month as nurses ignored their requests for assistance to use a bedpan, go to and from the toilet, or change their sheets—some families took soiled sheets and bed clothes home to wash;
- Patients drank water from flower vases as food and drink were left out of reach;
- Patients were neglected and developed infections or had falls, some of which were fatal;
- Patients were hastily discharged by medics who feared being fired for delays;
- Wards were left filthy with blood, discarded needles, and used dressings while administrators bullied and intimidated people into silence; and
- Four members of one family, including a new-born baby, died within 18 months following hospital blunders.
The report, conducted by Queen’s Counsel investigator Robert Francis, also increased death-toll numbers from 400 to nearly 1,200; last year the Department of Health and NHS regulators estimated hospital deaths from 2005 to 2008.
“It is time that the public were told the truth about the very large number of excess deaths in NHS care and the very large number of avoidable but deadly errors that occur every day,” said Julie Bailey founder of Cure the NHS.
The report revealed that hospital administrators cared more about meeting government goals and cutting costs than providing safe, adequate care for the patients. Francis condemned hospital bureaucrats for fixating on cutting waiting times to meet Labour targets and neglecting dying patients.
“These awful events show how badly Labour has let down NHS patients. It should never again be possible for managers to put a tick in a box marked ‘target met’ while patients are pushed off to a ward and left to die,” Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said.
Francis reported that chief administrator, Martin Yeates, had failed to resolve the hospital’s “governance and staffing issues” because his administration “focused on systems” instead.
Before becoming Mid Staffordshire’s chief heath care administrator, Yeates had worked in the hotel industry and had managed a catering department at Walsgrave Hospital in Coventry. He was hired in September 2005 to develop “a more businesslike approach” to help the hospital gain foundation trust status, considered the standard for excellence in the NHS. Mid Staffordshire achieved NHS elite status two years later.
In addition to Yeates, two others in his administration resigned and a number of doctors and at least one nurse are being investigated by the General Medical Council and Nursing and Midwifery Council respectively.
Jan Harry, Mid Staffordshire’s director of nursing from 1998 to 2006, told Francis that she didn’t remember the decision to cut the nursing staff by 52 or the plan that drastically altered the ratio of trained to untrained staff, adding that it wasn’t her job to monitor ward standards.
The NHS does not inflict severe punitive measures on administrative bureaucrats for substandard work or ban them from working, as it does with doctors or nurses. Administrators receive six-figure redundancy packages or move to other hospitals in spite of their blatant incompetence or poor management abilities. Yeates was suspended last March with a £1million pension, six months salary, and a possible £400,000 settlement.
“We must end the situation where a senior NHS manager who has failed in one job can simply move to another elsewhere,” said Health Secretary Andy Burnham.
After accepting the report’s 18 recommendations, Burnham called for a new investigation to determine why Department of Health and NHS regulators failed to recognize the deteriorating conditions at the hospital. However, families of the victims are a bit incredulous. They claim the proposed inquiry is a “whitewash” and instead are calling for a full public investigation to provide the openness, clarity, and transparency necessary to prevent future horrors from ever happening.
In spite of having concerns about staffing, patient welfare, the availability and suitability of equipment, and the effective monitoring and handling of complaints, the Care Quality Commission, the NHS regulator, has declared that the hospital under its new management is now “safe to provide services.”
In the wake of the UK’s worst-ever NHS hospital scandal, the White House and congressional Democrats are on the brink of using the nuclear option to pass Obamacare, whose public option would lay waste to America’s current health care system and plunge Americans headlong into a bureaucratic quagmire of socialized medicine and a recurring nightmare of a single payer government controlled health care system, comparable to the Brits’.
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