In Vasa Veritas

“It is strange about lies – any lies, all lies. They are muscularly stronger than truths. They come more readily to human tongues. They fit more easily into the games of this life. And in me they seem needful to my Artist mind.”

Mary Maclane, I, Mary MacLane: A Diary of Human Days (1917) p.51

It is an odd quirk of the human condition that Mary Maclane describes here: the ability to deceive would have enhanced the survival abilities of our ancestors. For millennia our forebears sat around fires telling stories of what were once real events; it is a part and parcel of human nature that events such as the battle of Troy were elaborated upon by a succession of poets and come down to us as the Odyssey and the Illiad.

But truth was not their foremost consideration, hence the resentment expressed against some poets by certain philosophers, some of whom themselves commanded great poetic gifts, such as Plato and Nietzsche. Of course some poets, Keats and Shelley spring readily to mind, cared deeply for, and greatly extolled the virtues of truth.

So it is that certain aspects of a story in the media are focused upon, the old adage, ‘why let the truth get in the way of a good story‘ has never been truer. Which brings us on to the subject of this blog, the vases, supposedly widely resorted to as drinking vessels at Mid Staffs but which had long been withdrawn from wards for hygiene reasons.

This story has no basis in substantiated verifiable evidence, but arose myth-like from half-truth. Even our Prime Minister repeated this story over the summer; despite an avalanche of letters and emails of complaint, and FoI requests raised upon the Prime Minister’s Office by people who contested this version of events, not a jot of the ‘well-documented eyewitness accounts’ which were hinted at to initial respondents, have been forthcoming.

Conservative's letter

The vase issue may seem peripheral to the whole affair of Mid Staffs but the central, crucial aspect is one of integrity; or lack of it. To hold any position in public life integrity is a condicio sine qua non, for a Prime Minister to repeat these unfounded stories must put their integrity seriously into question.

Nietzsche wrote:

“How could anything originate out of its opposite? For example, truth out of error? Or the will to truth out of the will to deception? Or the generous deed out of selfishness?”

Beyond Good And Evil; Chapter One, Prejudices Of Philosophers, Aphorism 2

I might suggest that there is a dialectical movement evident in the path of human knowledge where things are born from their opposite: humankind shares a will to truth which is seemingly at odds with an equal will to deception.

By means of a conclusion and summation; the newspapers will continue to print sensationalist stories because that is what sells newspapers – it is down to the us to challenge the mass media wherever possible.


Stafford Scandal in the Sentinel Again

Well, here we go again, one week after a similar misinformed story we have more of the same from Mr Blackhurst:

Stafford scandal forces the University Hospital of North Staffordshire name change

“But UHNS bosses fear its reputation is being dragged down by sharing a similar title with the now-infamous Stafford Hospital, where staggeringly high death rates were uncovered.”

The story of how those death rates were found to be erroneous, and that there were coding issues is well documented; the ‘excess deaths’ were not borne out by Francis:


Further to this is an academic report:

The findings of the Mid-Staffordshire Inquiry do not uphold the use of hospital standardized mortality ratios as a screening test for ‘bad’ hospitals.

And other articles which support this supposition:

Inquiry behind NHS scandal omitted crucial data

The real Mid Staffs story: one ‘excess’ death, if that.

Data fear caused Mid-Staffs panic

It is a huge issue that these factual errors are unquestioningly repeated; they have been perpetuated by many with other agendas, some through simple ignorance. You will see that the BBC has stopped reporting these figures – they know they are incorrect.

So Dave Blackhurst, regarding HSMR’s please refer to these figures from this summer:

Trust Comparison

UHNS is clearly responsible for far more deaths than Stafford; for those who live in a simplistic void.

Letter of Complaint to the Stoke Sentinel and David Blackhurst

Dear Sir or Madam,

I really must register my dissatisfaction concerning this unbalanced, misleading article which obliquely skips over the services being withdrawn from Stafford Hospital:

 David Blackhurst: Is Stafford Hospital really being downgraded – or is this the start of a better future for healthcare in Staffordshire?

At the first Cannock public meeting the TSA expressed openly that their plans for Stafford were ‘contentious’, and they absolutely are, to pretend otherwise, as you appear to be doing, is crass, misleading, ignorant or malicious.

I would very much like to see how you, Mr Blackhurst, or any of the residents of Stoke & surrounds would feel about their maternity and paediatrics departments being transported 40 minutes plus down the road, and far, far longer during the periodic gridlock which regularly accompanies M6 accidents and heavy snow; how ‘safe’ would that proposal be to you and your family?  Not as though I would wish these proposals on anybody. I can tell you for certain that babies, children and mothers in particular are being put at severe risk here. To pretend that these proposals are a godsend to our community is crass, misleading, ignorant or malicious.

“But the Hackett vision also brings plenty of benefits to North Staffordshire residents,” it does, at the expense of those in Mid Staffs; UHNS currently has one of the largest deficits of any trust in the country; Monitor are downgrading, yes, downgrading Stafford in order to bail out UHNS. To sweep over the massive negative impact on the communities of Stafford and surrounds that this downgrade represents, as you so lackadaisically appear to do, is crass, misleading, ignorant or malicious.

Meanwhile we see this terrible story – I ask The Sentinel and Mr Blackhurst, “is this an upgrade?”, just what would constitute a downgrade in your book? How many more must die?

So Mr Blackhurst, do you have any grasp at all of this issue? Can you understand why 51,000 people might march to keep these services? Which aspect of this situation do you not understand or comprehend? So,  my criticism of this article:

Is exhibits crassness:

Showing no intelligence or sensitivity.

Is appears to be misleading:

Giving the wrong idea or impression.

Is is ill-informed and hence it is ignorant:

Lacking knowledge or awareness in general; uneducated or unsophisticated.

It may not be deliberately so, but it is unconsciously malicious:

Characterized by malice; intending or intended to do harm.

This is a situation that can only get worse, and it will get worse while people such as yourselves with little or no understanding of the situation continue to write articles like this; supposedly written by an experienced journalist in a respected newspaper.

Nietzsche, In think, summed up the mass media, who he strongly derided, aptly:

The intellect of the Germans was kept down by their beer and their newspapers.

Human, All-Too-Human, Part II by Friedrich Nietzsche

Either you unknowingly swallowed the UHNS spin or you knowingly misreported the facts; either are unforgivable in anyone claiming to be a journalist. What is at the root of Nietzsche’s criticism of the MM is that it promulgates the unquestioning consumption of opinion masquerading as valid factual information.

Audrey’s Account

I am posting the comments of a fellow campaigner, who doesn’t tweet:

I have recently read your article on Julie Bailey and found it very insulting to the people of Stafford. Yes we had some poor care at our hospital but we did not and do not, as Julie Bailey suggests, try to pretend this did not occur. When she says that no nursing staff reported that there were problems at the time, this is not correct, they did but were ignored by the management.

My friend was in the same ward as Julie Bailey’s mother and I saw no abuse or deliberate neglect. The patients were mainly very elderly and very sick, some like my friend had dementia. And so the nurses, and there were far too few of them, were rushed off their feet. I heard no one crying out in agony, as Julie so very often says, and the ward was peaceful. There were no vases and I remember this because I was not able to take my flowers for my friend.

If she did have her car tyres slashed, why didn’t she go to the police? The police investigated only after numerous unfounded reports of this type of incident appeared in the press. And they found no evidence of harassment and the case was dropped. Also she often states that she has had letters containing death threats, why have none of these ever been produced as evidence? And there have never been any actual photographs of damage to her mother’s grave, merely picture of her posing by the gravestone and the story which began months ago as stating there was damage to the grave, then changed to a smashed vase on the grave, and then flowers from a vase on the grave being trodden into the ground.

She says the town of Stafford has divided along political lines, that again is not correct. The committee of Support Stafford Hospital consists of members of all parties working alongside each other.
I would like to finish by asking why it is reporters such as yourself do not come to Stafford and ask the people of Stafford our version of what happened at our hospital and chose to simply copy and paste statements made over and over again by Julie Bailey, and why his her version of events any more valid than those of mine and others whose friends and relatives were treated in Stafford hospital at the same time as Julie Bailey’s mother.

I am bitterly disappointed at the standard of journalism and what happened to good old fashioned well researched balanced reporting?

Yours sincerely

Audrey Jackson

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’.