The wonders of government-run healthcare:
The NHS’s medical director will spell out the failings of 14 trusts in England, which between them have been responsible for up to 13,000 “excess deaths” since 2005. Prof Sir Bruce Keogh will describe how each hospital let its patients down badly through poor care, medical errors and failures of management, and will show that the scandal of Stafford Hospital, where up to 1,200 patients died needlessly, was not a one-off. The report will also pile pressure on Labour over its handling of the NHS, with the Conservatives likely to seize on it to attack Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary who was in charge of the NHS in England from June 2009 until May 2010.
Some findings of the damning Keogh report:
Warning signs were there for managers and ministers to see, including alarming levels of infections, patients suffering from neglect and appalling blunders such as surgery performed on the wrong parts of bodies...In total Sir Brian calculated that up to 13,000 patients died needlessly in that period. His analysis shows that in the last five years of the last Labour government, from 2005 to 2010, eight of the trusts had death rates well above the average in at least four of those years. Mortality rates at Basildon and Thurrock, Blackpool Teaching Hospitals and East Lancashire Hospitals were statistically “high” – persistently above average – in all of the five years to 2010, while Colchester, Dudley, George Eliot, Tameside and United Lincolnshire were “high” in four out of five years before the general election. At the worst hospital, Basildon and Thurrock, the “mortality ratio” from 2005 until last year was 20 per cent above the NHS average, with up to 1,600 more deaths than there would have been if it had the average level of deaths among its patients. However, from 2005 until 2009 the hospital was given a “good” rating by NHS regulators, first the Healthcare Commission, then its successor, the Care Quality Commission.
Keogh Report said: Inspectors found patients were forced to stay up to two weeks in temporary areas without even shower facilities. Others were left in ambulances “stacked” outside A&E as the hospital failed to cope with demand. Patients were repeatedly moved during an in-patient stay. The report said temporary areas being used for patients were not fit for purpose. Inspectors said: “For example there were no showers for in-patients in AMU [Acute Medical Unit] where patients were staying for periods of up to 14 days.” Staffing levels were not sufficient, with one nurse left caring for 10 patients at a time during a night shift, and patients waiting for 14 hours in casualty.
At a recent conference of British doctors, attendees blasted the National Health Service as "worse than Communist China," inveighing against government bureaucrats who have come to dominate patient care:
Doctors at the British Medical Association’s annual conference in Edinburgh called for a system of regulation in response to the Mid Staffordshire Foundation trust scandal, so that managers could be “struck off” for bullying doctors, or putting finances before patients. Dr Peter Holden, a member of the BMA’s GP negotiating committee, said the lack of regulation allowed senior managers to operate in a culture of secrecy and overt bullying, while the most extreme incidents were hidden by gagging clauses. He said: "The result is the perfect toxic professional working environment for this explosive mixture to generate disasters such as Mid Staffordshire which did so much harm to patients. Not even in Communist China did they have managers overruling doctors in the operation of hospitals and health services.”
The parade of disgraces at NHS have led some British analysts to call for the "liberalisation" or "privatisation" of the country's creaky, dysfunctional healthcare system. And throwing more money at the problem isn't a viable solution:
If cash was the answer, than the NHS would be fixed by now. The great Labour mission (pdf) was to take UK health spending to the European average. It’s now 9.8pc of GDP, well clear of the EU average of 9.0pc (pdf). And UK health outcomes are still lousy. During the last decade Gordon Brown conducted a massive experiment: money was his aim, he doubled the NHS budget and saw what happened. The NHS did not (to put it mildly) become twice as good. It just grew fatter and more expensive. Bureaucrats accrued power that would have shocked hospitals in in Communist China (the Commie reference is not mine, but a remark from the recent BMA conference). And it was the power wielded by these managers, who overruled doctors, which is emerging as the primary fault behind the failings at Stafford Hospital and the others being outlined tomorrow.