Last week’s revelations about what went on at the Care Quality Commission to cover up a report into the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Trust’s maternity unit has disgusted the public, and rightly so.
The news was unveiled in an independent report ordered by the regulator’s current chief executive David Behan. It found former CQC bosses had suppressed an internal review because it revealed weaknesses in the CQC’s own inspection regime after it failed to identify neglect at the maternity unit at Furness General Hospital.
Quotes that were allegedly made by senior NHS managers, who didn’t want the public to ever see the report were morally repugnant. They are said to include: “Are you kidding me? This can never be in a public domain nor subject to FOI [Freedom of information request]. Read my lips.”
What senior people in the NHS and the CQC fail to realise is that the NHS is owned by the public. They have a right to know how their money is being spent. And wasted. And none of them would want their money to be used to conceal the truth from them.
It’s telling that Gary Walker is the only one prepared - or able - to critique the NHS. Anyone on the payroll doesn’t feel able to say what they really think
People such as James Titcombe, whose son Joshua died at Morecambe Bay, and Julie Bailey and Deb Hazeldine, who lost their mothers at Mid Staffs, are shareholders in the NHS. And yet the organisation is failing them in the worst way imaginable. Can you imagine a business ever doing that to its investors and surviving?
The stories emerging from Morecambe Bay and Mid Staffs seem to show a system that is more concerned about how it appears to be operating than how it really is doing.
Last week, the media did their usual and turned to their health story go-to man Gary Walker, the former chief executive of United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust who blew the whistle over patient safety concerns. His view is that bad news stories are rationed and those in the NHS are under pressure to conceal when things go wrong because ministers won’t want to hear about it.
Well someone seems to have ripped up the ration book. More and more stories are emerging about refusals to own up to failures. How can the NHS ever learn from its mistakes if it doesn’t admit to them?
It’s telling that Mr Walker is the only one prepared - or able - to critique the NHS. Anyone on the payroll doesn’t feel able to say what they really think. And surely that’s the biggest problem.
We are campaigning for all NHS staff to be able to speak out safely when they spot poor care. And we won’t rest until the culture changes. See nursingtimes.net/sos for details.
Jenni Middleton, editor
firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter @nursingtimesed