Green Room

NHS scandal: Up to 1,200 patients ‘died needlessly’ at British hospital

posted at 3:26 pm on January 7, 2013 by

Since Ed and I have each written about the latest round of Obamacare-exacerbated premium hikes, let’s check in on Britain’s single-payer system, which many American liberals fetishize:

An official inquiry into failings at [Stafford] hospital, where between 400 and 1,200 patients died needlessly due to a catalogue of failings and appalling standards of care, is due to be published later this month. The report is expected to blame managers who cut costs and reduced staffing levels in an attempt to hit “efficiency” targets and win foundation status. Before taking control of the health service, Sir David ran the health authority responsible for supervising Stafford between August 2005 and April 2006. His tenure came during a four-year period in which between 400 and 1,200 patients died needlessly due to a catalogue of failings and appalling standards of care at Mid Staffordshire NHS trust. Lawyers for the inquiry have criticised Sir David for his attitude towards the scandal following comments he made which were described as naive and dangerous, according to reports.

He told the inquiry in his role as NHS chief executive that because Stafford hospital was the only one to have been identified with such major failings, it suggested the problem was “singular” rather than a “systematic” problem in the NHS. Tom Kark QC, counsel to the inquiry, reportedly described Sir David’s attitude as “very dangerous” and said his assumption that other failing hospitals would have been identified by demonstrably failing systems was “naive”.  Sir David, a former Communist Party member, was installed as chief executive of the NHS by Labour in 2006 and is due to head the NHS Commissioning Board when it is launched in April.

Former card-carrying Communist?  Check.  Slated for promotion, despite staggering ineptitude?  Check.  What precipitated this systemic neglect and “appalling” medical standards?    Government efficiency targets, also known as rationing:

The report, the result of a two year-long inquiry led by Robert Francis QC, is expected to call for major reforms of the NHS including new controls to identify and remove bad managers and an improved training programme for nurses and health care assistants. It will warn that a “culture of fear” filtering down from Whitehall made managers obsessed with hitting targets, even when to do so would mean putting patients at risk. Doctors at Stafford were called away from critical patients to treat less urgent Accident and Emergency patients because a central target said all patients should be discharged from A&E units within four hours, the inquiry reportedly heard. Patients were left unwashed, unfed and in soiled bedsheets, while nurses were told that “heads would roll” and the A&E department could close if targets were missed. The NHS Commissioning Board, of which Sir David is the new head, could not be reached for comment.

“Whitehall,” incidentally, is a shorthand description of the British government’s central administration.  Fleet Street has been covering NHS’ myriad failures for years; here are just two recent additions to the roster of health care ignominy:  (1) Thousands of Britons’ private healthcare records were posted online without their knowledge or consent, prompting an outcry.  Millions of their fellow countrymen may be surprised to learn that a new government policy requires individuals to opt out of such public exposure.  (2) An increasing number of Brits are resorting to paying out-of-pocket for private care, due to aggressive rationing within the “free” government health apparatus:

More patients are going private because the NHS is increasingly cutting back on providing a range of treatments.  The poll, carried out by ComRes for the firm BMI Healthcare, found that 70 per cent of GPs are now unable to refer a patient for further treatment on the NHS at least once a month because they do not qualify under local criteria. Primary care trusts (PCTs) have increasingly been restricting access to treatments including cataract removals, hernia operations and hip and knee replacements, by raising the threshold of how ill or disabled a patient has to be…Dr Gerada said it was “very sad” that people were having to resort to the private sector. She said: “It’s incontrovertible that rationing has increased. Ophthalmologists are particularly taxed about single cataract operations. There’s also the worry that waiting lists are going up.” She feared the NHS rationing seen so far was the thin end of the wedge and warned more treatments would be restricted “very soon”.

Meanwhile, British Lefties are predictably denouncing the move toward privatization, blaming the shift on — what else? — “greedy” doctors (say, where have I heard that critique before?):

A senior doctor at a leading hospital has claimed consultants are prioritising their private practice work. Dr Rama Krishna Rao Rebbapragada, a consultant anaesthetist at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, said: “The private practice of the senior managers is putting a huge strain on the system. “Senior consultants do minimal sessions on full salaries and also they get distinction awards at the hospital.” Speaking at a meeting organised by the pressure group Keep Our NHS Public, he said: “I don’t want to see it just falling apart because of greed. I want my children, grandchildren and future generations to have the NHS.”

Behold, the paradise that awaits if our own “progressives” get their way.  Don’t believe me?  Just ask them:

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