So we have it.. The Francis report is due or is out by the time you read this- and without even pouring through the details, we pretty much know what its due to say/says, in Roy Lilley's words…”the NHS will stand there, stripped of its false pride”. And on a bigger scale, we will see what we hear happens in small measures every day in our working lives, which we have accepted as the norm… a culture of blame, lack of accountability, unwillingness to accept responsibility…the atmosphere of learned helplessness all pervading, eating into our collective consciousness.
We could and for certain will, spend reams of newspaper reel, blog updates soul searching, trying to understand, trying to explain…but what perhaps is more important should be the question…what now? Are we as a collective bold enough to bow our heads down, say sorry and then get up, as a collective to say, never again? Can we make sure we halt obfuscation in its tracks and say no more? Could this be the moment of catharsis for the NHS or would we slip back again towards a culture of acceptance, explain it away as the past and that alls well now?
Catharsis, from the Greek word “Katharsis” means "purification" or "cleansing". Could this possibly be that moment of the NHS? No longer should it be acceptable for a specialist Consultant to refuse to see a patient because “I don’t do generalism”, no longer should we allow professionals to dictate services based on their needs, not their patients, no longer should we allow a manager to lecture a doctor about "appropriate" Trust policy or complicated forms to fill, that stops him from raising patient safety concern. No longer should it be allowed to call patients “clients”- stop trying to learn from the hotel industry, the airport industry- and please, just do what is the essence of this industry- Caring.
Are we ready to do this? Yes, individually, we all must be. This should not degenerate into a debate about whether the private sector could do better. Yes, the NHS of old has failed them- but it’s the personalities within who have, not the concept of the NHS. We talk about the profit margins the private sector would aim for, cutting services. Please let’s not disillusion ourselves its not happening already…every referral that is stopped by a vetting centre inappropriately is exactly that, every debate one has about QoF points and profits for GP surgeries is nothing more. Competition only goes so far…but when you run out of money, you collaborate and work together within your means, not cut corners to maximise the profits and balance the spreadsheets. The day you start doing it…you have on your plate what Mid Staffs has presented us with….a naked, shameful saga without any excuses…a tale where doctors, nurses and managers forgot what they chose this job for.
Maybe it’s the naivety of youth which prompts such despair, maybe it’s the ethos that my dad taught me but we must do better. We are at a situation where nurses have to pledge to the 6 C….a great concept- but why do you have to remind people of compassion and care? Isn’t that what this is all about? I feel bitterly disappointed that as a collective we have failed patients to this extent and it burns me to think that so much of it was preventable. It is a shameful indictment of what we have let things to become.
NHS Pledge Day approaches and rather than convert that day into yet another sound bite, there’s only 1 collective statement and pledge to make..”..We are sorry. And never again”. Anything else is simply...meaningless.