The Politicisation of Mid Staffs

The Politicisation of Mid Staffs – and why it is wrong

Let me firstly lay my cards on the table – I am a Staffordian, I was born in Stafford and apart from a few years living in London I have spent most of my life in Stafford and surrounds. There is much misunderstanding about Stafford due in no small part to media misreporting of our Hospital; the residents of Stafford seem sometimes to be the one eyed man in the kingdom of the blind as the misinformation perpetrated via the mass media continues unabated.

It must be noted that this issue has united our community; regardless of political persuasion there is a concordance of opinion in support of the often maligned front-line staff who many of us will be  forever in debt to.

This is a quote relating to the start of the troubles at Mid Staffs:

“Monitor also rubber-stamped Mid Staffordshire’s application for Foundation Trust status after minimal scrutiny, overlooking the desperate cuts in staffing that were necessary to wipe out the £10 million deficit and achieve a balanced budget – usually with ‘surpluses’ built in to pay for the development of their services – as required for foundation status.”

John Lister, Breaking the Public Trust, NHS SOS page 27.

It becomes apparent that the root of the problem was in the Department of Health enforcing Foundation Status on Mid Staffs; but these decisions were made at departmental rather than ministerial level. The early requests for an inquiry were rejected because the DoH did not recommend that an inquiry should be held; within one month of coming into office Andy Burnham initiated the Francis Inquiry.

So, in the light of this we see this story:

Burnham accused on Mid Staffs probe

Former health secretary Andy Burnham has faced criticism for blocking a public inquiry into regulatory failings within the NHS.

Julie Bailey was speaking here at a Lords committee hearing, so she is perfectly able to make these suggestions as these hearings are covered by absolute privilege. Newspapers reporting this evidence are also covered by qualified privilege. It seeks to politicise the issues at Mid Staffs.

Take the Prime Minister’s speech this summer, it makes clear that the NHS election strategy of the Conservative Party is going to be centred on Mid-Staffs:

And by the way – who presided over Mid Staffs … patients left for so long without water, they were drinking out of dirty vases … people’s grandparents lying filthy and unwashed for days.

Who allowed that to happen? Yes, it was Labour … and don’t you dare lecture anyone on the NHS again.

Add the CBE, the many Conservative MP’s who came out in support over the harassment accusations against the people of Stafford and the often quite vocal support Julie Bailey gives to the Conservatives. The symbiotic relationship is clear.

I would only add a letter that I had printed in The Staffordshire Newsletter recently, in reply to a claim that CTNHS were politically independent, and that the SSH campaign was a  dominated by the far left, slightly edited:

Mrs XXXXX  it seems that a certain amount of edification is required: it is an untruth continually and falsely levelled by Julie Bailey and CTNHS at all those seeking to retain services at Stafford Hospital that they are ‘in denial’ of the past. Your letter is evidence, if it were needed, that CTNHS are in denial about the present. The King’s Fund, an independent charity working to improve health and health care in England tweeted this week “mortality rates at @MidStaffsNHS now some of the best in the country. 98% patients likely/extremely likely to recommend service.” These figures come from the government’s own key performance indicators: Doctor Foster Hospital Standardised Mortality Ratios and the Friends and Family Test Data where Stafford Hospital came out in the top 1%.

The Department of Health enforcing foundation trust status and the subsequent cutting of frontline staff initiated the problems at Mid Staffs – it was a departmental rather than a ministerial decision. It is crass to try to politicise this – the only groups I am aware of trying to do this are the Conservative Party, ludicrously parroting sensationalist Daily Mail stories as if they were factual data, and Julie Bailey, vocally criticising Andy Burnham over the inquiry. One would have to be fairly naïve to consider CTNHS politically ‘independent’ here. Our MP has been exemplary in his support for the hospital; as you say, there is cross party support in the Borough Council; Support Stafford Hospital as a group is distinctly and by necessity apolitical. The suggestion that Cheryl Porter would be handing out copies of the Socialist Worker is an outlandish and unwarranted slur on a dedicated, selfless individual who has done much of a benefic nature for our community.

In matters pertaining to stroke or heart attack treatment it has been proved that large centralised units have better outcomes, there is no evidence that this holds true for accident & emergency, paediatric or maternity units. The current government’s line here is purely monetary, in our specific case it has been to prop up a failing neighbouring trust that has a larger deficit than ours. Patient safety has not been the foremost driver in this matter, money has. The people I see standing up for patient safety locally today are those from all sides of the political spectrum who have engaged in the process and fought to retain these high quality services.

In this respect I fully and unequivocally concur that Cure the NHS are ‘independent’.


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