What is coming through from the evidence is that while Mid Staffs had poor care, it was not exceptionally poor. We are not talking about a hospital run by Harold Shipman. What appears to have happened is that there was poor care, but this was amplified by poor statistics and a poor statistical method that took garbage in, produced garbage out, and stamped it with the certification of Dr Foster Intelligence.
Then there was political interference, first locally, then nationally with a General Election. Politicians desperate to do anything to get elected allowed their judgement to slip. Suddenly, a local problem, that should have been corrected with proper oversight by regulators, got out of control and turned into an international scandal. (At the height of Obama's healthcare reform I got emails from US colleagues claiming that they did not want Obama's reforms because they were being told it would lead to "thousands dying like at Mid Staffs"!)
There are several things that the enquiry is telling us. These are two, which are distinctly bad news for the government:
- A hospital trust attempting to attain Foundation Trust status too fast will put patients at risk
- A reorganisation of the statutory regulatory bodies means that they cannot effectively monitor the quality in hospitals and care will suffer.
Yes, you have noticed it, hospital trusts are being forced into becoming FTs before they are ready while at the same time the bodies that monitor quality in those hospitals are being abolished.
At possibly the worst time for Cameron (it was his fault, he did not have to have another enquiry) the Francis Enquiry will report just as the Health Bill pause ends, and it will give the message that what Lansley is doing is dangerous and puts patients at risk.
But there's more. Some of the people who are crucial to Lansley's dismantling of the NHS are implicated in Mid Staffs. Health Service Journal reports that
"national figures will give evidence to the enquiry in the next few weeks and are spending significant time with their lawyers in preparation"The question is whether the legal advice is to cover their backs about their involvement at Mid Staffs, or whether they do not want to give evidence that will prove that Lansley's dismantling of the NHS is putting vulnerable people at risk. We will have to wait and see.