Pithy 3rd-party assessment of “patients’ campaigners”‘ worldview

Anyone who follows this blog will know that, to say the very least, I am no fan of ‘Cure the NHS’ and allied complaint-groups (I won’t say ‘campaign’, as it’s not really appropriate). I consider most of them damaging, short-sighted, blinkered (not a good combination) and all too eager for the media attention their complaints bring them. And the way they respond to any dissent or criticism amply illustrates their real psychology and motivations.

I came across this gem the other day, whose author has kindly given consent for me to share it with you. It’s not blindly uncritical of the NHS in general nor of Stafford hospital in specific (just as I’m not, though I’m often accused of that and many other things by those who can’t be bothered to actually read), but it’s one of the best encapsulations of the whole unrealistic, egocentric attitude that underlies many of the complaints that are often treated by the national media as if they are gospel.

You can find the whole, unedited original here (link removed at author’s request) – but here’s the full text ever-so-slightly edited by me for the sake of young readers or those offended by very direct language:

“Cure the NHS” – get a ****ing grip

I’m getting increasingly p***ed off with this post-Staffs pressure group.

Mid Staffs delivered some sh*te and unacceptable care, no doubt. But it’s also true that a lot of the claims seen in the media were utter bullsh*t.

The 59 gazillion unnecessary deaths was a flagrant misuse of HSMR, either due to reckless ignorance of how it works or irresponsible attraction to hyperbole. Same applies to the excess deaths in the Keogh report hospitals.

The ‘patients drinking from flower vases’ because they were denied water was shot to sh*t by the fact that vases had been banned on the wards for almost a decade. Could it have happened? Yes, it could, if friends/relatives had brought a vase in, and the patient was suffering from dementia or otherwise confused. Was it something that lucid patients were commonly caused to do, as presented? Was it bollocks.

As I said above, Mid Staffs was failing patients. I’ve seen no one deny that. I’ve visited elderly relatives who have been in crap hospitals/wards*. It’s really unpleasant to see someone you love, in distress, being treated with such a lack of compassion – even when the clinical boxes are being ticked. These days I’d know how to do something about it. But back then I was in the position of most relatives, with no knowledge of the NHS monolith and worried about making things worse by complaining.

So… I understand their anger, and I think it’s entirely justified. But at the same time, the media presentation and thus public perception of Mid Staffs has fuck all to do with reality.

So a pressure group on the issue of quality care isn’t a bad thing, in itself. The CQC have made f*** all difference, so someone else may as well have a go.

But why do they present everything with such a sanctimonious attitude, without at least asking some of the people that do the job first?

Some recent examples from some of their leading lights:

  • “I am not bed five, my name is Kate!
  • Yes Kate, it is. But nurses constantly have confidentiality protocols drummed into them. These protocols have been put in place because of patient complaints. So, unless they are addressing you directly, they are obliged to avoid using your name and to refer to you as bed five.
You’re having a strop because nurses are doing what they’ve been told to do, which they’ve been told to do because patients have complained when they’ve done otherwise.
  • Some tips for nurses – “Touch is comforting reassurance for many patients, e.g. hand holding”
  • Yes it is. And for others, it’s a gross invasion of privacy.

This sh** just ain’t that simple, and extrapolating that because it’s how you’d like to be treated doesn’t mean it’s how your next door neighbour would like to be treated.

It’s all delivered in such a sanctimonious way, as though nurses are all as thick as pigsh** and it will all come as some sort of revelation. And tellingly, those who raise any dissent are accused of being part of some sort of conspiracy to bully them in to silence. Skwawkbox, which exposed the misuse of HSMR long before Prof Jarmen started talking about it, is apparently in league with satan. :rolleyes:

Badly written rant over. I needed that though -ta. :oops: :D

*Even in a good hospital different wards can have very different cultures and sets of values. So even in a good hospital, you can have crap wards. And vice versa. And It’s 99.9% down to the matron and senior sister. Others follow their lead. The longer I spend working in the NHS, the more important I think that nursing leadership is.

The ‘bed five’ comment in particular is a perfect example of how unrealistic, self-obsessed and ill-informed many such ‘campaigners’ and their complaints are. Losing a loved one is tragic and they have my sympathy. Being in hospital is scary and stressful. But neither experience makes someone an expert in patient care, medical procedures, cause of death etc. In fact, the whole stress and grief of these experiences means they’re often less able to be objective and reasonable.

Most of the media either doesn’t get that, or more likely chooses to ignore it. Our pseudonymous observer above clearly does, and for that s/he has my appreciation.

Edit: the ‘bed 5’ comment was actually a ‘bed 7’ comment on Twitter by a lady called Kate Granger, though I had no idea which ‘Kate’ was the source until just now (Saturday evening). She appears to be a perfectly nice person and is currently in hospital being treated for a serious illness. Her comment still evinces a lack of understanding of the reasons nurses might use ‘bed X’ instead of someone’s name, but there’s no reason to think her motives resemble those of Cure the NHS in any way.

What does reflect the Cure mentality, however, is the absolutely rabid and histrionic Twitter reaction of Cure supporters like self-proclaimed ‘modern leader’ Gary Walker and others. One person on Twitter suggested to me in reasonable terms that an amendment to the end of the article was appropriate, and that was enough. But Mr ‘Leader’ and his cronies’ melodramatic and libellous cries just made my point for me even more clearly anyway.


  1. Excellent stuff! Sums up the feelings of a great many people I’d think. No doubt the poster will be the target of Cure’s usual response to any critics.

  2. Absolutely. I have witnessed dire treatment on some wards but also superb on others. Every large organisation will have areas where drastic improvement is needed but to attack the NHS as a whole does no favours to those who are really trying to reform . ‘Bad apples’ exist in all professions. I am no fan of nurses having seen appalling treatment on geriatric wards, however having recently had a personal experience in hospital I witnessed the nursing of old people which was second to none. Nurses were feeding, talking to & constantly changing older patients. It shouldn’t have, but it surprised me consequently taught me no to generalise & demonise all those in the nursing profession.

  3. Sorry, you could not be more wrong. Kate is working NHS doctor with terminal cancer. As far as I know she has nothing to do with Cure the NHS, but she is one of the greatest and most vocal supporters of the NHS that I’ve ever come across. Even a tiny bit of research would have been a good idea.

    1. Frozenwarning:

      I’m afraid doctors are rarely particularly well informed about the constraints that nurses are bound by. Of course, doctors are technically bound by those same constraints – but they are far less frequently held to account by them, and are often entirely unaware of them. Completely different hierarchies and professional cultures.

      1. Please don’t lecture me on NHS hierarchies. I can pretty much guarantee that I have a shedload more experience than you. My problem is with the nasty personal, and frankly dishonest attack on someone who has done more to ensure improvements in patient care than either of the rather distasteful opposing factions in this particular internet feud.
        I have no disagreement with your opinions on the media and have expressed my similar thoughts many, many times. It is not acceptable to attack NHS supporters, particularly when they are sick, and especially when the criticisms are simply not true. If that is the way any of you behave normally, you have no place in the NHS that I love.

  4. What is alluded to here is the complete lack of balance from pretty much the whole media and a failure to accept any concept of grey areas or multiple perspectives. If I said the following:

    There were instances of poor care at Stafford Hospital

    There were areas of significant understaffing at Stafford Hospital

    There were similar in other hospitals at the same time and now

    The poor care mentioned above probably didn’t lead to an excess of deaths overall

    HSMRs are not an especially useful indicator in their current form

    The “vase” episode may well be apocryphal

    Elements of the media may have taken advantage of stories in the NHS that suit their agenda(s)

    Cure the NHS and it’s members are a small but particularly persistent and vociferous group which is one of the reasons why there was a public inquiry about Stafford Hospital/MSFT as opposed to any other Trust

    Cure the NHS, having obtained the Inquiries, missed the opportunity to do real good for Mid Staffs healthcare and the wider NHS

    The Francis report has been effectively buried by Mr Hunt

    The NHS had significant underinvestment in the 80’s and 90’s

    The NHS had significant investment in the 00’s – some to good effect but a good deal was wasted and ineffective (PFI, marketisation, Treatment centres, GP contract, Agenda for change, Consultant contract, bureaucracy, quangos, some aspects of the “targets” ….)

    There is a huge mismatch between what ordinary people want and value (good access to GPs and community services, local secondary care) and what the chattering classes want and value (super-hospitals, super-specialisation, customer focus rather than needs focus …)

    The NHS is experiencing cuts despite claims to the contrary

    etc etc

    am I being inaccurate, woolly and disrespectful to patients?

  5. It doesn’t matter who is the author of the comment really, the actual point is that people can find certain practices objectionable but those practices may be mandated by professional ethics. It may be those practices need to change of course, but as pointed out in the blogpost, different people have widely differing ideas about what is good nursing. Some people object to nurses being familiar with them, others find excessive formality “cold”.

      1. Having said that, Kate is a lovely lady who Tweets about her hospital experiences and this is just one of her Tweets about her instinctive reactions. It’s fair enough that she and others find it de-personalizing (regardless of the reasons for the practice), and healthcare professionals should always be open to changing their practice in response to patient concerns. Sometimes the good reasons for a particular practice outweigh the negatives and so the practice simply needs careful explanation.

      2. Well said. Though I’d be amazed if the staff in question were aware Kate could hear them, so wouldn’t know it needed explaining.

  6. Good highlighting of “perceptions”, by people who do not know, or bother to find out the full facts.
    I noticed a couple of problems when I was in hospital,. but went through proper procedures to report them, and they were resolved satisfactorily, without the need to get my 5 minutes of fame in the media!

  7. Actually it DOES matter, when you use a totally made up vicious attack on an NHS worker who is very ill. It matters a great deal. Also, if you’re a nurse and can’t distinguish between patients who appreciate a human touch and one who doesn’t, you’re in the wrong job.

    1. And you appear to be a simplistic person with little idea of the shades and nuance of human interaction. Or at least doing a very good impersonation of one with that comment.

  8. Thanks for pointing out the inaccuracy in your post, even though you could have done it hours ago. I should just point out though that the nonsense about “cronies” is untrue. I had no clue who any of the people involved were, and actually still don’t. I am not a “Cure supporter” by any stretch of the imagination and @docinsanity knows that from previous encounters, and I’ve even blocked one of their supporters tonight. To be honest though, I really don’t care what you think of me, I’m just glad that you have at least in part made it clear that Kate was wrongly insulted.

    1. And ‘Kate’ was not wrongly insulted, or insulted at all for that matter. Her comment was wrongly interpreted – but the essential point still stands. The comment was wrong and at the time of writing I had no idea which ‘Kate’ said it.

      1. She was, but I see you’re never going to admit it, despite your correction. As I said hours ago, a little bit of research would have saved us all from this. Strangely we probably agree on a lot of NHS issues but to be honest there’s too much obsessive behaviour on both sides to even discuss it. Goodnight.

      2. Quite. The post in question is irrelevant, it’s an illustration of a common phenomenon. There’s no attack on her as a person, just that post.

        The attempts to claim it as a ‘personal’ attack are symptomatic of the issue itself.

        I also find the play to sympathy regarding her illness to be utterly distasteful.

  9. Surely Cure is fighting for NHS transparency and so stresses failures for the welcome resulting publicity.

    However, it has egged the pudding so much now, that it is wiling to acquiesce to No.10-inspired public deceptions (like the Telegraph ‘13,000 needless deaths’ headline), as long as Cure think their cause is helped by doing so. Any publicity is good publicity.

    This is understandable but dishonest and self-defeating. It will ultimately let down the patients and relatives they aim to help..

    It’s dishonest in the same way as acquiescing to a headline deception such as “13 Tory Cabinet Members Are Paedophiles” would be – even if a group trying to expose one such member thought the publicity a breakthrough, as long as it brought attention to their cause and helped launch their requested inquiry.

    If the group, so intent to ‘out’ their suspect, failed to correct the exaggerated headline figure, they would quite reasonably be seen as complicit in allowing the smear to spread, possibly resulting in 12 innocent newly unemployed ‘unemployables’.

    It’s self-defeating because the recent public deceptions regarding NHS ‘failures’ (like the ‘13,000’) were disseminated by No.10 briefers (Polly Toynbee, Guardian), clearly as part of the deliberate and ongoing Tory campaign to persuade us that NHS failures abound – so much so that only hospital closures, transfers and privatisation can hope to safeguard patients.

    This party political campaign veils the fact that, as Steve has shown in many blog posts here, most recent NHS scares are false or exaggerated.

    Before their accuracy is challenged or can be corrected, the public is insidiously persuaded of the need for a radical break-up and sell-off of parts of the NHS.

    Yet many Cure supporters know that this privatisation agenda will lead to a much worse health system, where abuses will fester with little or no transparency.

    At least freedom of information (FOI) requests and staff contract ‘gagging clause’ bans apply to, or are imposed on, the NHS. Not so the private service providers – the Govt will impose nothing which tempers their appetite for NHS contracts.

    For patients or relatives trying to expose private sector malpractice or its perpetrators, they’ll have to battle not just a total lack of enforced transparency but, in the forlorn hope of extracting compensation, face the nightmare legal minefield involved with layers of deliberately arms-length and dispersed subcontractor responsibility.

    Real problems existing in the NHS do need to be exposed by Cure and other groups but, if public deceptions aren’t challenged and corrected, it will be the patients and relatives who belatedly recognise they were duped.

    In the same way, many families of soldiers sent to Iraq still experience the consequences of previous Govt duplicity.

    Most people now regret that they naively acquiesced to.that public deception and wish it had been promptly challenged and corrected so that much anguish and many needless deaths could have been avoided.

  10. I often take a look at what CTNHS are tweeting about and have on occasion felt the need to jump in when some of them indulge in what is frankly libellous (Gary Walker’s recent vile tweets about you, Steve, being a case in point). On a couple of occasions Julie Bailey has replied directly with a sanctimonious brush off and on one occasion she blocked me – although that doesn’t seem to be in place anymore.
    Their inability to engage in debate is astounding. I noticed that JB is now going on about NHS complaint procedures and since I have some recent experience as an advocate for vulnerable complainants I decided to test her out by tweeting about some success I had with Salford Royal (formerly Hope Hospital) in getting staff who were being complained about into face to face meetings with complainants in order to resolve things and get a commitment to learn from mistakes. Salford has recently been held up as a model of good care by the Tories.I’m not claiming this was all my doing but our advocacy service did make a small difference.
    So far JB has ignored my attempt to engage in a meaningful way. I would have thought someone so committed to improving the NHS might have shown some interest….

    1. It is like banging one’s head against a wall – sadly it’s a wall that needs hitting lest people think it solidly constructed.

      great work on the advocacy. You should blog about it and I’ll put it up on here, too.

      1. With CTNHS it’s. their way or the highway. If you’re not withem youre either against them (and usually morally corrupt) or you don’t care.

        I notice Julie Bailey has tweeted that the Staffordshire Newsletter now has very little readership and will be out of print in a few years. A typically snide and bitter response to their lack of coverage of her activities – or perhaps because of their reporting of the police having to approach her over her “hate campaign”?

        Also Steve, thanks for keeping me in the loop last night on Twitter. Didn’t take long for the usual suspects to turn up with their wooden spoons and sanctimonious hypocrisy. I was at a housewarming and my phone was buzzing every couple of mins! Can’t get into the conversation now, but there are some who will stoop pretty low it seems. Even lower than I suspected.

      2. In a word, it’s ‘groupthink’. Hence the monstering of anyone who opposes them. The other factor in these situations is that lots of people with miscellaneous but ill-founded grievances try and piggy-back on the campaigns of those with genuine grievances – hence the cases of Gillian Astbury and John Moore-Robinson are used to “prove” that all these other cases are genuine. Obviously completely illogical, but we’re talking about people who have become so obsessed that they’re often no longer able to look at the facts objectively.

    2. Forgot to add that while I entirely disagree with the Twitter comments that Steve has had to endure, especially has he only reblogged the forum post, I do think it was a good idea to add the amendment to the end – and that I completely agree with its content.

      1. I agree Shaun, I’m glad that Steve has clarified things. Kate Granger is a lovely lass and couldn’t be further from the Cure crowd!

  11. Julie shows very little interest in trying to improve the NHS, as her focus is on vengeance. There’s now a @CureChat account which is probably a fig leaf to try and appear productive, but that will do what? In the meantime they are being involved in medical education and policy decisions when they have very little to offer.

    1. Yes, am not up to date but trust Cure at least won’t put their modern leader forward to advise on NHS stats. ;-|

      (I understand Immy’s first words to Steve were “Should I start a @CureCure account, Grandad?”)

      1. Not a single one of them understands stats! Especially Shaun Lintern, which is more worrying because he purports to and he is a journalist writing on the topic.

      2. Shaun Lintern used Stafford Hospitals problems as a way of boosting his career, which I guess is what journalists do, and why I don’t like most of them. But like many others in his field I don’t think he wants to admit the sensationalist and very damaging misreporting of the HSMR figures. Though there are some who even now will not let that go, one even recently trying to suggest that the very genuine case of John Moore-Robinson – whose parents have now quite rightly been given a second inquest into the death of their son, who was the subject of a serious clinical error and an alleged attempted cover-up – was one of these “excess deaths”. His case, and that of Gillian Astbury, are both very serious but should not be used as examples to continue to push the idea that the 1200 excess deaths actually occurred. That in my mind is a little shameful.

      3. Shaun Lintern has pat answers about all these issues, insisting that he emphasized the caveats, did the appropriate checks required or that he reported Cure’s nonsense as “allegations”. Very trite and disingenuous.

      4. Yes, as John says about Shaun Lintern (that pat answers given recently insist emphasis was given to ‘caveats’ etc), Gary Walker also seems to suffer from the same disengenuity affliction.

        While claiming to have assiduously stressed that the ‘13000 needless death’ headline figure wasn’t completely kosher in interviews, have seen no such stress placed on this yet.

        Only noticed the comprehensive denigration of an expert in health statistics so far, eg:


  12. Isn’t it funny how the private sector that is collapsing all around us never gets criticised, but an institution of world renown is dragged through the dirt because some who suffer from the consequences of deliberate underfunding and maladministration.

    Is the CTNHS for example calling for more funding for the NHS, or demanding the government stop their privatisation and break up of the NHS? If not why not?

    I think we know the answers to that, but would be interested to hear their response.

    1. Yes, agree with these remarks.

      The Tory PR trashing campaign against the NHS emanating from the No.10 ‘Nudge’ unit – which insinuates this slime, like a filthy backstreet mouthpiece for the Cabinet, as if from the corner of their innocent smiles – implicates Lynton Crosby:

      “PM..questions..over Mr Crosby’s role in axing plain cigarette packets and curbs on cheap booze, as well as giving tax breaks to shale gas firms.

      It emerged Mr Crosby had links in all three areas.

      Shortly after Lynton Crosby started work for the Conservatives, the Government shifted its position in favour of private health companies by trying to sneak NHS regulations through the House, forcing services out to the market.

      Lynton Crosby’s PR firm advised businesses looking to cash in on Tory reforms, leaked files show.”


      Another little-mentioned privatised public service example with vital health implicatons is the geographically split monopoly of water companies:

      These were paid £10.5bn by customers in 2010-11, made large profits of £1.7bn and paid huge dividends of £2.2bn (42% yr-on-yr rise) yet pay little or no tax, still increase prices above both inflation and average pay rises (3.5% in 2013-14) and now don’t even deliver clean water!


  13. OK, this goes back some years but a gentle old lady in the bed next to mine on gyny had a bout of post-op diarrhoea- it went everywhare- she ran as best she could to the nearest shower cubicle, sobbing and shamed. I rang her bell to get assistance for her. No reply. I went to the nurses’ station and 5 members of staff (for 10 patients) were having a sit down and drink of tea/coffee. I explain what had happened and went back to the ward. About five minutes passed and somebody appeared. She stripped the bed, looked at the floor (left that) and went off with the dirty linen, Did not check onthe patient who was still in the shower. 10 or so minutes had passed. The patient had been a sister at the same hospital. She did not put in a complaint. The episode haunts me still.

    1. Yes, a salutary and not unique situation. The patients, relatives and visitors see staff chaos and neglect. Although their absence from the ward is inexcusable, what do the staff see? Are they lazy or perhaps unmonitored, mismanaged, ignored and resentful? What are the personnel and management shortcomings, what structural changes are happening in the hospital, what financial pressures and targets distract management?

      True disturbing stories like this can often be related. Other blog sites receive many such contributions. This site, however, while clearly acknowledging their importance in highlighting the excellence or shortcomings of NHS treatment, is instead focussed on correcting deliberate public deceptions which might otherwise remain unchallenged and be detrimental in the long term to the most vulnerable, including to NHS patients.

      Another story relates to my mother who had Parkinsons and fell onto a hard floor in a care home. A day or two later someone checked (most likely after cries of pain while being washed) and eventually discovered she’d broken a hip.

      The morale of the dedicated but low-paid and stressed staff had collapsed since the appointment of a new manager so we suspect neglect played a part in this episode. Before this change, the same hard-working staff were wonderful.

      After the hip-replacement operation, during which her Parkinson treatment had to be suspended, she never recovered her mobility and spent further years in a nursing home, most of that time no longer able to speak and eventually died of cancer.

      In both the care and nursing homes, staff often struggled to make time, in between moving and settling patients, to sit with each to help them eat and drink.

      But my true story and others don’t necessarily help to clarify, for example, whether health statistics relating to the NHS are being misused.

      Arguments necessary to tease out discrepancies between those with differing views may become heated but concern separate and parallel topics to those addressed in other blogs exploring specific cases.

  14. 3 major problems:

    1) Lack of any kind of balance in reporting the NHS

    2) Most ordinary people would prioritise their health above all else, would happily but into a socialised system and pay progressive taxation accordingly but ….

    3) There is a lack of political choice in the matter on account of the homogenisation and careerisation (is that a word?) of national politics.


    1. Yes, quite true, I think (NHSWorker, above).

      One suggestion is more direct democracy. Online voting is now a practical possibility and is the only way to bypass the grip “big money” exerts on our representatives between elections.

      The political parties are clearly unable to extricate themselves from the malign influence of lobbyists willing and free to subvert representative democracy behind closed doors. The parties are already backsliding wrt MP expenses, Lords reform etc. They badly need external help.

      One form of online voting to try initially – which would bolster the NHS, given, as you say, that “most ordinary people would prioritise their health above all else” – could present us with options for each spending area or department etc.

      Ticking the More checkbox for ‘Health’ or ‘NHS’ (eg) indicates you prefer more to be spent on it next year. Ticking the Less checkbox indicates a reduction. Once votes from everyone are later combined, a relative measure of the strength of feeling for a spending increase or decrease will be clear.

      The total yearly budget may still be set by the treasury and it might also object if large budget swings per department were attempted so step-by-step (even 1% max/yr) ratchet changes could be implemented for gradual voter-led readjustments.

      This will wrest power back from Governments congenitally unable themselves to kerb the corporate influence continually and successfully exerted over them to the detriment of the public.

      If our collectve spending preferences are averaged and aggregated and made binding on the Government each year, an important aspect of our personal sovereignty will have been reclaimed and redistributed, rendering selfish external undemocratic forces almost impotent.

    1. The quality of your comments would qualify as that, mate. Oh, and I have broken a rule and cut out one of your comments. I’m not having that word on show here – even if it would show all too clearly what you’re all about.

  15. a terminally ill doctor who works for the NHS too…..what a christian chap you aren’t

  16. moderate it out chum….you call people liars, you pick on terminally ill doctors…..all you wish others for 2014….

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