It’s been announced this afternoon that Monitor, the regulatory body for NHS Trusts, has begun the process of putting Mid Staffs NHS Foundation Trust (MSFT) into administration. Once this process is approved, which may only take a couple of weeks, the administrators of the Trust will have 150 days to come up with proposals from a range of options including the complete closure of the Trust. One option that is not included, however, is the continuation of MSFT in its current form.
Reports on the decision focus on the Trust’s financial struggles and Monitor‘s statement that MSNHS needs to cut costs by 7% in order to be financially viable.
Sounds like a serious situation, doesn’t it? But as its Annual Report almost a year ago showed, Mid Staffs was already embarked on a Cost Improvement Programme (CIP) to save 6-7% a year – and had achieved its target of £6.4m in the 2011/12 financial year.
Not only that, but the Trust’s board had already agreed a Clinical Services Implementation Plan (CSIP) to save 6% per year from 2012 to 2015. Cumulatively, this process would save far more than 7% – and, crucially:
within the plan is a three year financial strategy from February 2012 through to March 2015. The CSIP and financial strategy has been supported by the Trust Board and was approved by
Monitor, Commissioners and the DoH at a meeting on 30th January 2012
Just over a year ago, Monitor approved the board’s 3-year plan – yet now it has changed its mind and considers MSFT ‘unsustainable’.
Without question, MSFT is a ‘struggling Trust’ in financial terms. But it has been working to – and achieving – a plan that would bring it to a stable financial footing. A plan that was approved by Monitor and the Department of Health for 3 years and is now being cut short to put the Trust into administration.
This sudden change of ‘heart’ (if such a word can be applied to an organisation of which a witness at the Francis inquiry said ‘Monitor misses nothing – as long as it’s financial’) clearly gives away the intent behind the government’s apparent humility concerning the events at Mid Staffs, which was worrying from moment David Cameron ‘ate humble pie’ in his Commons statement about the Francis report.
Reports on MSFT unfailingly mention the myth that basic care failings at Mid Staffs resulted in ‘400-1200 avoidable deaths’ in the Trust’s hospitals – even though this claim was completely unfounded from the moment the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph began to trumpet it, and even though the Francis Report itself does not support it.
Even the BBC have propagated the myth. The BBC News channel’s announcement of the administration decision began by referring to the Trust as a place where ‘hundreds of needless deaths’ took place, while the article on the BBC News website which I’ve linked above states:
This constant media focus on something that never actually took place is carefully fostered by the government in its language and stance – because it forms the cornerstone of a modus operandi, a method of operation, that the government is going to add to its general and pervasive assault on the NHS as a national, public institution.
The failures at Mid Staffs took place over a period that ended 3 years ago. The Trust now scores better than the national average in terms of its clinical outcomes and mortality statistics (correcting its statistical coding meant that it scored better than average on mortality even during the ‘problem’ period).
Yet only now, less than 3 weeks after the publication of the Francis Report, is Monitor choosing to put the Trust into administration – a decision that makes it extremely likely that the Trust will be broken up (or other Trusts around it will be broken up, as the government insanely did to Lewisham because of failings at South London).
Once the break-up is achieved, the hospital will either be handed over to private health companies to ‘save’, or else its services will be downgraded to simple, profitable ‘production line’ services such as hip and knee replacements (just as Jeremy Hunt announced will happen to Lewisham‘s successful hospital) – making it perfect for private companies to acquire and make money from without having to provide the complex, expensive treatments that we’re entitled to receive from true NHS hospitals.
If you’ve been wondering why Hunt and Cameron wrung their hands over the Francis Report and announced that 14 more hospitals have similar ‘death rates’ to Mid Staffs (though the stats for these are probably no more reliable than they were for MSFT) – wonder no more.
The over-eager rapidity of the decision to put into administration a Trust that is recovering in both financial and clinical terms betrays the government’s real agenda – the real reasons for their tactical posture on MSFT so far.
With an adverse spotlight once again on MSFT, and colluding media constantly ignoring the actual findings of the Francis report to foist the ‘unnecessary death’ myth onto a public that is ignorant of the facts, who is going to care if Monitor decides to put the Trust into administration. ‘Surely we’re better off without it, anyway?‘
Mid Staffs now. Then one by one the other 14 Trusts that have been targeted for the ‘unnecessary death’ slur will be systematically tarnished in the public consciousness by the collusive media, while ministers ‘regretfully’ advise that
we have to take steps to protect the public!
and, one by one, those Trusts too will come under Monitor’s baleful gaze.
Illusory problems will become ‘fact’, agreed 3- or 5-year plans will be trampled on, and we’ll suddenly find ourselves down by 15 hospitals – almost 10% of the total.
There are many fronts in the government’s all-out war on the NHS, but this one – the opportunity to take out 14 NHS hospitals that belong to us, the public – is a ‘wet dream’ for a party that has lusted for the destruction of Labour’s (and the UK’s) greatest achievement since it was founded.
Bevan said that the NHS would survive as long as there are people prepared to fight for it. This dishonest smear-campaign is the latest phase in the Tories’ attempt to distort the perception of the British public until there are none, or too few to mount an effective resistance.
We must not – must not – fall for the lies. Stafford is the battleground – and for all our sakes we need to stop the plan from succeeding there.