Socialist Worker

Staffordshire - how job cuts and bosses' bullying led to NHS deaths

by Sarah Ensor
Published Tue 12 Feb 2013
Issue No. 2340

Savage cost-cutting by health bosses in Staffordshire led to the deaths of up to 1,200 people.

That’s the conclusion of a damning public inquiry into the Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust between 2005 and 2009.

Bosses were ramming through £10 million in cuts to meet government criteria for becoming a foundation trust. Foundation trusts pave the way for the privatisation of hospitals.

Bosses slashed at least 50 nursing jobs. Patients went unfed, unwashed and without painkillers. Hygiene was so bad that patients’ relatives cleaned the toilets.

Patients caught MRSA, C difficile and other killer infections. Many were traumatised by the misery of their experience. Some were left with permanent damage.

Hospital management, the regulators and even the Department of Health claimed that no one ever complained. Some imply that callous nurses didn’t care about the poor quality of care.

It is a lie. Robert Francis, chair of the inquiry, said, “Some staff did express concern about the standard of care being provided to patients.

“The tragedy was that they were ignored and worse still others were discouraged from speaking out.”

The inquiry found “strong evidence” that workers were put off from complaining through “fear and bullying”.

Health bosses elsewhere have sacked “whistleblowers” who spoke out about poor care.

Demoralisation

Staff surveys revealed that the situation caused demoralisation among workers—but the trust board ignored them.

Mid Staffordshire achieved its foundation trust status in 2008. This is supposed to be a mark of excellence. But it was already clear that the organisation had serious problems.

The trust was stripped of its three stars rating in 2004. And in 2007 the Royal College of Surgeons called the surgical department “dysfunctional”.

David Nicholson, now head of the NHS, was not blamed in the inquiry. But he was responsible for Stafford in 2005.

That year, three Strategic Health Authorities merged to form the West Midlands Strategic Health Authority. Nicholson was its boss.

The inquiry showed that the job cuts that followed contributed to the chaos. Dr Heather Wood was chief investigator of a previous report into the deaths in Staffordshire.

She said that the “ruthless implementation of targets regardless of the cost” caused the problems.

She added that this “came from the top, from No 10 and from the Department of Health”.

Martin Yeates was in charge of Stafford Hospital from 2004 until he resigned in 2009. He wasn’t blamed in Francis’s report either.

Yeates avoided appearing before both inquiries because he was “too stressed”. He got a £400,000 pay-off and a £1 million pension pot when he resigned.


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Tue 12 Feb 2013, 16:39 GMT
Issue No. 2340
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