The recent uproar concerning the estimated 400, and possibly as high as 1200, patients who may have died needlessly as a result of ‘routine neglect’ by nursing staff after the management became preoccupied with cost-cutting and meeting government targets is by no means the first, nor the most serious, episode of ‘death by NHS’.
Leaving aside, for the moment, the tragic fate of the Thalidomide babies, of whom I have blogged before, and who this week, some 50 years later, are to be awarded a paltry extra £3.4 million; turning tactfully away from the deaths caused by the MRSA bacterium which alone is responsible for some 6,000 deaths over the past four years, I would like you to turn your attention for the moment, to the fate of the 4,670 people who were negligently given Hepatitis C – and in some cases HIV – by the box ticking, arse covering, target meeting, NHS.
Of 4,670 haemophiliacs, over 2,000 had died as a direct result of being given infected imported blood in what Lord Winston described as the ‘greatest tragedy in the history of the NHS’. Those who are calling for a public inquiry into Staffordshire might care to reflect on the ineffectual outcome of the inquiry which did result from that tragedy.
Both the bereaved families and those caring for survivors of the disaster had to fight long and hard for an inquiry. The Government refused all requests for a Public Inquiry on the dubious grounds that ‘the facts were already known’. Eventually Lord Morris, that champion of the disabled, stepped forward and established an inquiry of his own – the Archer Inquiry – entirely funded by private donations! (Incidentally, the inquiry managed to work their way through 20,000 documents, deliver three reports of recommendations, and find premises to hear the many personal accounts from survivors, all for the princely sum of £70,000 – thousand, not million!).
25 years of campaigning eventually led to a Private Members Bill, ‘The Contaminated Blood (Support for Infected and Bereaved Persons) Bill, tabled by the indefatigable Lord Morris again. The bill was widely supported by MPs from all sides of the house and achieved the distinction of being the first Private Member’s Bill to pass through to the House of Commons for consideration.
The Government, however, the same government who had refused a public inquiry, now refused to support the bill based on the private Archer inquiry. They refused to make time for the matter to be debated.
Undaunted, the Bill remained tabled, and could have been passed without debate.
Friday 5th February, arch Twit of the Government Whips Office, Kerry McCarthy was sent toddling down to the chamber to lodge a formal objection to the Bill being passed without debate.
[The Government] said ‘No’ to an official Government Inquiry, ‘No’ to giving oral evidence to the Archer Inquiry, ‘No’ to implementing the Archer Report in full, ‘No’ to a Commons debate on the Archer Report, ‘No’ to supporting the Contaminated Blood Bill and now it is saying ‘No’ to giving MPs time to even debate the Bill!
Game, set, and match to the Government. 25 years of campaigning hit a brick wall.
An estimated £1.5bn has been spent on perpetual reorganisation within the NHS, £1bn has been paid to private management consultants, such as those called in to help debt ridden NHS trusts, and £14bn had been overspent on the NHS information technology programme.
This Government has spent record amounts of money on relentless ideological reforms within the NHS that have misappropriated billions away from patient care. Thousands of people are dying at the hands of the NHS.
Needless deaths. Somehow I have no faith in campaigns for a public inquiry into the Staffordshire deaths. Even a self-funded inquiry will flounder when it comes up against an intransigent, unaccountable, totalitarian Government.
Do I think Cameron will do any better? Logically, No. Putting the NHS to rights would require wholesale redundancies amongst the bean-counters and pen pushers. He won’t want to put up the unemployment figures unnecessarily, so they will go on shuffling paper, draining money away from caring for the people who put their faith in the NHS to keep them alive.