Correcting a Local MP in the Local Press – We Keep Fighting

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March 27, 2013 by Protect Our NHS

This was our response to a local MP’s attempt to push her party’s agenda in a newspaper article in the Bristol Evening Post. Her original article is below our letter to the Post published on Monday 25th March. It may sound trivial, but we need to get our views out there in every possible outlet in order to counter the drip drip of lies and half truths from the coalition government on the radical and deeply destructive changes they are making to our NHS.

CONSERVATIVE MP, Charlotte Leslie, (On The House The Post March 15) should be slightly less disingenuous.

While we are delighted to see her using your paper to inform us of how active she is as a local MP – tabling a motion “calling on NHS Executives to resign” and securing an all day debate on “transparency and accountability in the NHS” -we should not be blind to the fact that she is pushing her party’s health agenda. The truth is that whatever mistakes the Labour government made, it rescued a desperately run down NHS from a decade of underfunding and turned it round.

It wasn’t Labour who brought in managers, but the previous administration.

Labour created targets in order to bring down waiting times and by 2007 patient satisfaction was at its highest.

No one denies that standards of care in some wards at Mid Stafford were abysmal, but headlines screaming wildly varying mortality statistics do not help especially as their accuracy has been disputed by statistical analysts and health academics.

The new start she calls on for ‘our’ NHS is Andrew Lansley’s convoluted mess supported by a tiny minority of GPs and which leaves the door wide open to private operators whose motive is profit not patients.

Protect Our NHS recognises the need for continual reform of the NHS but, like thousands of health professionals, rejects the current attempts to privatise it.

From April 1 we will see changes that will lead to the end of the current NHS system. We will witness the creation of a two-tier structure with the poor and needy being forced to pay for essential services and those who can afford it taking out US style health insurance.

Mike Campbell
Protect Our NHS

And now the article from Charlotte Leslie, Conservative MP for Bristol North West

SELDOM has the phrase “deadly silence” been more apt. In Bristol, we know about things going wrong. With the baby heart scandal, years of inaction and suppression of those who voiced concern led to the most heartbreaking of tragedies.

Then there was Mid-Staffs. A few weeks ago, I tabled a motion for David Nicholson, chief executive of the NHS, and anyone else found negligent of patient care across the Department of Health or the NHS to go.

Last week I secured an all-day debate on transparency and accountability in the NHS, which I led yesterday.

My father has been a surgeon in the NHS for 30 years. His dedication and those of his fellow medics has always been an inspiration to me.

The vast majority of our doctors and nurses are excellent, dedicated professionals, who are in the job not to meet Government targets or please managers, but to treat patients.

But the revelation earlier this month in the Francis Report of what happened at Mid-Staffs forced the political class to face some uncomfortable truths about the reality of some aspects of our NHS. Until that point, it had been almost taboo to suggest that the NHS was anything but “The envy of the World”.

Even campaigners like Julie Bailey, who led the group who uncovered what was going on at Mid-Staffs were dismissed by David Nicholson as “simply a lobbying group”.

This is the “deadly silence”.

But the Francis report was tragic for yet another reason. It wasn’t news. Many of the elements of Mid-Staffs had been warned about before, and many doctors and nurses had been trying to voice their concerns at the effects a target and management culture was having on patient care.

Back in 2008, the then Labour government commissioned three reports to celebrate the NHS’s 60th birthday.

They made uncomfortable reading. They said, among other things: “The NHS has developed a widespread culture more of fear and compliance,” which put targets above patient care; “Far too many managers and policy leaders in the NHS are incompetent, unethical, or worse.”

But instead of publishing and acting upon these reports with all urgency, The Labour government buried them. They were only dug up through a Freedom of Information Request in 2010.

Now no one can be precise about how many lives might have been saved had these reports been acted upon but the excess mortality numbers across 15 trusts under investigation is 2,800 from the time the report was presented to ministers, and when it came to light in 2010.

So who was responsible for ignoring these warnings, with grave consequences? David Nicholson? Labour ministers? Whoever it is should be held accountable.

The NHS is a huge organisation. In reality it is the case that sometimes things will go wrong. But the crime is that when things did go wrong, instead of the focus being immediately to tackle it, the priority was to cover up any truth that was uncomfortable for ministers and chief execs. Dispatch-box appearance mattered more than the reality of patient lives.

Whistle-blowers and patients groups were left screaming into a vacuum, often at great personal cost. But if responsibility and accountability is to mean anything more than just words, those at the top, like David Nicholson, who oversaw the NHS’s darkest days, must go. We must be brave. There must be a cultural clean-out if we are to have any hope this will never happen again. The culture of silence must end. We need a new start for our NHS.
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