It’s deeply ironic, really. In July, the truth about the media’s nonsensical distortions regarding NHS mortality finally entered the mainstream. The shamelessly misleading claims ahead of the publication of the Keogh report, and Keogh’s complete demolition of them as ‘reckless’ and ‘meaningless’, finally opened many people’s eyes to a tactic that has been used to the point of nausea by media and this government to undermine the public’s affection for, and confidence in, the NHS.
Those claims continue to be repeated, but fewer people are now fooled by them – and gradually the public is realising what has been known for some time: since the mortality claims about the wider NHS are nonsense, the claims about Stafford hospital, which were based on the same deeply-flawed statistics, are unfounded too.
But in the same month, just when the claims about Stafford are finally being exposed as invention, the government and it’s ‘TSA’ hit-men took a decision that will turn ‘avoidable deaths in Stafford’ from myth into reality.
In choosing to put the A&E department on a part-time basis permanently, the administrators have demonstrated their complete lack of commitment to the long-term maintenance of services for which the local people have been campaigning in vast numbers.
The decision to maintain a part-time A&E at Stafford is clearly intended merely to divert public wrath and media outcry. By closing critical care and other services to which any A&E department needs to be able to send patients after initial assessment and stabilisation, the TSAs have ensured that Stafford’s A&E will simply ‘wither on the vine’, shrivelling to the point where it will be closed by the Trusts that will be responsible for it once Mid Staffs Trust is wound up.
To use another metaphor, they have elected to ‘boil the frog slowly’ rather than kill it quickly, in the hope that by the time it’s boiled to death public attention will have moved on and few outside the local area will care enough to pay attention.
It’s a decision that will cost lives. The government and their friends in the media invented ‘avoidable deaths’ at Stafford to attack the NHS – but real avoidable deaths will be the result of the evisceration of services at Stafford. Here’s an example of why, which was provided by a doctor at Stafford hospital:
Even though the academics that have looked at this fairly recently are quite adamant about it, I suppose the men in suits think that it can’t be true because the hospital you travel to is super excellent (though this effect ought to be absent if the one you are closing is also very good). Think of this example.
2 men aged 23 have a fever and the worst headache they’ve ever had and can’t move their necks very well. Both have a worried wife and a 10 month old baby. Neither can see their GP for 3 days. One lives in a city with an A&E. The other lives 20 miles away in a town where the A&E was closed a year ago.The former thinks he’ll nip to A&E just in case, where he is rapidly diagnosed with meningococcal meningitis on account of the tell-tale rash the junior doctor would have been looking for in this type of case. Antibiotics are started but he becomes sicker and goes to critical care. He is stabilised and goes home a week later after a traumatic but ultimately successful experience of serious infection.
The other patient delays, not wanting to travel 20 miles with a baby in the back of the van only to be told it’s a virus, worried about the expense, parking, traffic etc but an hour or two later is taken anyway by his wife and her mother-in-law as he’s looking terrible and isn’t quite “with it”. She loses her way at some traffic lights but eventually gets there. She can’t seem to get attention quickly as a pub fight and it’s casualties have spilled over into the large A&E. He is in a semi-coma by the time he is seen. He is again rapidly taken to critical care but after a month in a coma and 2 leg amputations and kidney, then liver, then heart failure is deemed irretrievable and the ventilator is switched off. The widow and her extended family have travelled the 40 mile round trip twice a day for a month.
The government maintains that it’s better for patients to be treated at ‘super-hospitals’ further away than at adequate hospitals nearby, but in many cases it won’t matter how good the hospital is.
People won’t go until it’s too late because of the distance.
Trauma victims will die in the ambulance because of the longer journey.
Mothers and babies will die having driven past what used to be a well-equipped local maternity unit with consultants on call for when needed.
And the alternative hospitals are not ‘super-hospitals’ – they are overstretched facilities already facing serious problems of their own. The maternity unit at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire, which is expected to handle the births of Stafford babies, has already closed its doors on several occasions because it couldn’t handle local demand.
And the nonsense of all of it is that implementing these changes that will cost lives is going to cost up to £300 million, and at least £220m – far more than Stafford’s debt – and will still leave an annual deficit of £8.5 million per year.
The government claims that its changes to the NHS are about improving it. It claims that the fragmentation and the enforced marketisation are about patient choice and value for money. It claims that its motives are improvement and ‘putting the patient at the centre’. It claims that the NHS is ‘failing’ and that NHS workers are ‘coasting’.
It claims that putting Stafford into administration, which has resulted in the Trust’s dissolution and the downgrading of its services, are in the best interests of the people of Stafford.
What do you think?