Patient safety is not a focus when the government calls the shots

For three years, a single British hospital that was obsessed with following government health care mandates to the letter, succeeded only in killing 1,200 patients unnecessarily:

Twelve NHS trusts are being investigated following a damning report which today slammed ‘appalling’ care at a single hospital.

Hundreds of patients may have died after bosses at Staffordshire General focused on Government targets rather than safety, the Healthcare Commission said.

A ‘shocking’ catalogue of failures over a three-year period were disclosed after an investigation found hospital managers had sought to save millions by adopting foundation status.


Among the findings of yesterday’s report were:

● receptionists carrying out initial checks on emergency patients

● too few consultants, with junior doctors left in charge overnight

● two clinical decision units used as ‘dumping grounds’ for A&E patients to avoid breaching four-hour waiting targets, one of which had no staff

● nurses so ill-trained they turned off heart monitors because they didn’t understand them

● delays in operations, with some patients having surgery cancelled four days in a row and left without food, drink or medication

● vital equipment missing or not working

● doubling of life-threatening C diff infection rates, which were kept from the hospital board and the public

● a target of £10 million savings which was met at the expense of 150 posts, including nurses

● more debate by the board about becoming a foundation trust than about patient safety


Investigators were inundated with complaints from patients and relatives, the most it had ever received, including Julie Bailey, 47, who set up a campaign group following the death of her mother in November 2007 at the hospital in Stafford.

She was so concerned about her 86-year-old mother Bella that she and her relatives slept in a chair at her hospital bedside for eight weeks.

‘What we saw in those eight weeks will haunt us for the rest of our lives’ she said.

Thirsty patients drank out of flower vases, while others were screaming in pain and falling out of bed.


Director of the Patients Association Katherine Murphy said ‘Government targets have directly impaired safe clinical practice and money and greed for Foundation Trust benefits has taken priority over patient’s lives.’

As you can see, the above story does not relate one of those increasingly frequent situations in which the British government decided to withhold treatment or tests from a single class of patients because the patients are more expense than they are worth.  The government wasn’t directly involved here at all.

The problem, instead, was that a hospital, rather than seeing patients at its customers, saw the government as its patron, and redirected its energies accordingly.  And because there was no connection between the patients and the hospital in terms of complaints (that is, the hospital didn’t care about the patients, who were not paying the bills themselves, nor did they have a direct relationship with an insurance company that wanted to keep their custom), the hospital managed to go for years without having to react to criticism or complaints.  It was only when patients and their families were able to achieve a critical mass that made a noise loud enough to spur the government to action that the hospital’s conduct finally came under scrutiny.

It’s a reminder to us all that the market speaks loudly and quickly.  The government may ultimately have the loudest voice of all, but getting it to speak is often an agonizing task for a consumer who is deprived of a true marketplace and, instead, is utterly dependent on the government to give him a voice.

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  • suek

    ” ‘Government targets have directly impaired safe clinical practice and money and greed for Foundation Trust benefits has taken priority over patient’s lives.’ ”

    Does anyone know what the significance of the Foundation Trust is that it should be so important???

  • Danny Lemieux

    Soon, coming to a neighborhood near you.


    NHS in Britain.

    This is just as confusing as derivatives.

  • suek

    Thank you for the link – I just don’t think of Wikipedia as a first source.

    It sounds like an FT is an effort to go back to private practice. It also sounds like they’re not going about it very sensibly! It should mean that not only are they making a profit, but are more responsive to their patients. It sounds like they’re _so_ unresponsive that they’d _never_ make a profit!

  • Ymarsakar

    wanted to keep their custom)


    I tend to see this as one more step in the eugenics project that is Planned Parenthood. After all, abortion was billed as a compassionate objective. In reality, of course, it was designed to get rid of unwanted and inferior castes. Government healthcare was billed as compassionate, but in reality it was designed to get rid of society’s useless people in order for the government to replace them with more slavish subjects. If that just happens to be Islamic fanatics, hey, that’s all part of the plan. SOmebody’s plan at least.


    Sounds right to me and the only ones making a profit have got to be the local funeral homes.

    Can you just imagine what the chances of litigation against a government entity for mucking up are.

  • Earl

    Exactly right, Danny… anyone in the wider world of the U.S. actually awake to this?

    I’m practically freaking about this, but others at my workplace seem quite calm in the face of our quick-step towards handing the government our lives….they seem to think it will bring an improvement, and they’re ecstatic that “someone else” will be paying the bills! Bunch of sheep……

  • Deana

    Bookworm –

    Your analysis of the situation is brief and perfect. You simply could not be more correct.

    I was taught in nursing school that we are to refer to patients as “clients.” Frankly, I hate the term because in my mind, a patient is much more than a client but still, the point is well taken.

    Unless, of course, your client, the one you work for, is actually the government and NOT the person who is actually ill.

    It is hard enough to do everything we are supposed to for patients now when our focus IS the patient. Patients would be the very last thing on the minds of staff if the government becomes our client.


    P.S. As an aside, I simply cannot express how shocked I am at reading the findings. All are horrible but I can’t fathom turning off a heart monitor or putting a patient where there is no staff. It’s simply unthinkable. Terrible things can happen to patients when staff IS present. I can’t even imagine the condition patients would be when staff isn’t present.

  • Bookworm

    Actually, Y, for once I hadn’t made a typo. (Usually I do make typos and I appreciate your good eye.) In the context in which I used it, keeping the government’s custom means keeping it as a customer. Old-fashioned, I admit, but grammatically, and typographically, correct.

  • Ymarsakar

    Book: Must have been before my time ; )


    they’re ecstatic that “someone else” will be paying the bills!

    ALERT! ALERT! Your co-workers has been brainwashed into a Nanny State of Mind.

    I am sure they will be quite pleased with the care they’ll get under a NHS. No doubt Thorazine will be a cheap co-pay.

  • suek


    Also more typically a British term. You’d have to go _way_ back to find it in common use in the US. Definitely before your time. Even before mine, and that’s saying something!