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Nurses see patients as 'diseased objects'

Nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals need to be trained to see patients as people and not “diseased objects”, a former chief medical officer has told the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust public inquiry.

Sir Liam Donaldson, who was the country’s top doctor from 1998 until 2010, said people entering the professions knew “instinctively” how to care but often became “inured” to suffering in a modern care environment.

He said: “It’s vital you see that person as a person, not just a diseased object to be processed.

“It may be shocking to people but it’s a genuine reaction to high stress, high pressure jobs.”

Sir Liam told the inquiry undergraduate education for doctors and nurses was “completely lacking” in teaching on quality and safety but curricula were “full” and it was a fight to get new topics added.

The inquiry heard Sir Liam had been involved in discussions about the Nursing and Midwifery Council merging with the General Medical Council, but proponents had “backed off” from the idea and the Commission for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence was created instead to share best practice.

Sir Liam said the CHRE had been “reasonably successful” but it would be “worth looking at the possibility of a merger” between the GMC and NMC.

Now in its penultimate week, the inquiry is considering how regulation and performance management systems could be improved to prevent a situation like Mid Staffs happening again. Previous reports have found appalling standards of care at the trust.

Last week the inquiry learned two more nurses from the trust are to give evidence at the inquiry during the final week of hearings - former accident and emergency nurse Helene Donnelley, described during the inquiry as a whistleblower, and former head of governance Trudi Williams.

The inquiry team at first rejected a request from campaign group Cure the NHS for Ms Williams, who now holds a similar post at the Dudley Group of Hospitals Foundation Trust, to be called to give evidence claiming she was just an administrator.

However, lawyers for Cure the NHS argued as a registered nurse she had wider responsibilities and should be held to account. Ms Williams was responsible for declaring the trust was complying with Healthcare Commission standards which were later found to be lacking.

New witnesses from the Care Quality Commission have also been called after an anonymous tip off to the inquiry called into question some of the evidence already heard from the employees of the regulator.

The inquiry is due to make recommendations based on its findings early next year.

Readers' comments (3)

  • What? A Physician telling US not to see patients as objects? Pot and kettle much!

    What a farce this is, when will these idiots realise you can't just keep blaming staff for these failings? When will the executives, the trusts and even the government be held to account?

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  • The cheek of this Doctor majority of health care professionals see the patient as a person first. However the government, Trusts, executives etc are closing beds, insisting you save money, want the patient discharge ASAP so what are the fronline staff to do. At present A+E departments are penalise for not moving the patient to the wards are discharging fast enough, the wards are under pressure to free up beds hence inappropriate discharges at times then the patient ends up back in hospital or are shifted over to the private sector until a nhs bed is available. It is about time these higher ups had to do two months placement with frontline staff I wonder if they could cope.

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  • CEO's and their entourage see only £ signs. Decisions are made purely on finance. Hence, a fast factory like conveyor belt ethos exists.

    I would suggest that (sir) Liam Donaldson gets himself into the clinical arena and witnesses first hand the actuality of a non clinicical personel decision making process.

    Maybe then he would eat his poppycock...

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