Have you ever seen The Verdict? A most excellent movie fronted by the iconic Paul Newman..if you haven't, I suggest you do. It's about a lawyers battle to bring justice to a patient left paralysed by errors, how a man out for money changes along the course of the movie to be the one to bring justice..a most riveting movie indeed. I have always thought how awful it would be if someone actually had to be in the shoes of the parents...but thankfully it was only a movie, right?
Errors or for that matter any data showing perhaps suboptimal care is always a tricky subject. Due to a multitude of errors, some due to data collection, some due to petty politics, medical professionals by nature, at least in this country, regard any such mention with healthy doses of cynicism. For sure, it must be a cock up on part of the data collectors or perhaps a conspiracy on behalf of someone who wants to bring the service down. The NHS is emotive, the NHS breathes fire into folks, the defenders of it are stout and quite rightly too...but do we sometimes stop to think of the ones who fall within the cracks? Politicians don't help either..either using data to berate professionals or indeed make ill judged pot shots at their opponents...net result it becomes a football. A culture of hammering the professional builds up walls and any attempt to raise any errors are seen as berating the whole profession...the whole NHS..the lines are so sharp that even those who perhaps try to play a fine balance are seen as those who haven't chosen a side...both parties part of the ultimate Bushism...either with us or against us.
This blog is about James Titcombe..a man who has been through the gamuts of all of the above. Passion on both sides have boiled..whether it be a dad, whose loss is incomparable against some who have taken his challenges as an affront to the whole midwifery profession. What struck a chord with me about James was when I got to know him more..was some of the similarities I had gone through many years back. And I have seen all sides of midwifery on a personal level...an amazing caring, gentle side, soothing balms during times of pain...and an experience with my second born which I would never forget. I like to keep my personal life just that...but lots rang a bell...and this man is trying to correct something, trying to use the grief he has been through to make sure no one else goes through what he has gone through...and for that, we must laud him. Some of you may not agree with him but that must not translate into abuse..that must not translate into slurs...if there is even a little bit to learn from his book..please do.
To all colleagues and juniors, I urge you to read his book "Joshua's Story". I am not an emotional man but as a dad, it felt hard to read..really really hard. Many a moment I had to take a break...but I read through it all to try and make sense..try and understand...and hopefully keep true to the ethos of putting the patient first. It indeed is a poignant and perhaps quite sad read..but there is much to learn if you believe in patient safety and I would urge you to go through it. I will certainly recommend it to my juniors every time I talk about patient safety.
Finally, a big thank you to James for inviting me tonight...felt quite ordinary in a room full of big names- but I do appreciate the gesture..and I wholeheartedly acknowledge what it must have been to go through what you have. Tonight I go home and hug the kids a bit tighter..thank you as a doctor..and more importantly...as a parent. Joshua would have been a wonderful child...wherever he is, may he always rest in peace.