West Midlands hospitals hit the news

A blog on the WMTPA website in February last year criticising the greed of executives on the board of newly founded Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust - some of whom wanted to up their pay by a whopping 154% - has taken on new significance this week as Stafford Hospital has been thrust into the limelight amid findings showing that as many as 400 patients died needlessly between 2005 and 2008.


Stafford hospital This shocking news reverberated around the country and now today’s newspapers lead with an all-too-similar story: that Birmingham Childrens' Hospital is buckling under the strain of increased demand and is, on average, turning away 70 ill and disabled children each month.


Hospital Chief Executive Paul O’Connor quit earlier this month following complaints of “Third World conditions” – and if that sounds like hyperbole on behalf of the press, today’s Birmingham Mail relates one particularly harrowing example that seems to warrant these heavy tones of condemnation:


“Concerns were still being raised last month over patient safety during brain surgery when the surgeon was handed an incorrect instrument and his hand was jolted by an untrained theatre nurse in the middle of the life-saving procedure”


Positively hair-raising.


The independent Healthcare Commission report said that there were too few beds, cancelled surgery, poor working procedures and poor planning services. What is more, as the above example demonstrates, many theatre staff were unable to identify surgical equipment and, in general, care was ruled as being below standard.


Writing of the Stafford Hospital disaster in today’s Express and Star, journalist and WMTPA supporter Nigel Hastilow asks the obvious question, “Why must we put up with poor NHS care?”:


“We wouldn’t put up with it for more than five minutes from a railway company, and airline, BT, a shop or the local council.
 When it’s a matter of life and death, rather than just a minor inconvenience, it can take years before anybody in authority even notices anything is amiss”.


Even after massively increased funding over the last ten years or so, an increase in hospital staff (though unfortunately many of them aren’t medical professionals…), and a huge emphasis put on NHS targets and standards, in 2009 we’re still being faced with hundreds of needless deaths in Staffordshire, and sick children being denied treatment in Birmingham. And all the while our tax pounds are paying for the inflated wages of NHS Trust board members who boast experience and solutions yet seemingly come up with nothing during their 3 day working weeks. As taxpayers we have every right to be appalled, this is what happens when money is thrown at a problem in the hope it will rectify itself. Birmingham childrens hospital


Non-medical managers and bureaucrats with newly invented mandates proliferate within the NHS these days, and with these two shambolic examples coming to light, we can almost guarantee there will be a fresh influx because, as Nigel says:


“There will be inquiries, investigations and yet another raft of rules and regulations. “Lessons”, everyone piously declares, “Must be learned”.


Money that should always have been used for doctors, nurses and provisions has been used to prop-up this heavy bureaucratic layer, which is itself overburdened with regulation, and even as the dire consequences reveal themselves, we’re well aware of what they’re likely to mean. More cash, more officials, more waste and undetectable ‘improvements’ in the service. 


So what’s in the future? Will we all be sat at home quivering and self-medicating rather than opting to hear the death knell at our negligent local hospital? As a result of these latest disasters we can be assured that horror stories will abound (as if they didn’t already!) and more of us will become genuinely fearful of using a service that we pay huge amounts for every year, and entrust with the most important asset we have - our health.


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