The NHS depends on tens of thousands of EU staff, many of whom work in higher qualified and better paid positions. Their future in Britain could be affected by the Brexit talks, which is why health service chief Simon Stevens has taken to the pages of today’s Telegraph to urge the Government to give foreign workers the “reassurance” that they are still “welcome in this country”. Stevens’ call will pile pressure on Theresa May, who has faced repeated calls to guarantee the rights of EU citizens already living in the UK. She has so far refused to do so without a reciprocal guarantee from EU leaders to protect British expats living on the continent.
Stevens touched on more than the implications of Brexit this morning, as he went on to lay out his blueprint for the health service after the referendum. The NHS chief calls for money to be diverted from hospitals to “overcrowded and clapped-out” GP surgeries and urges the Prime Minister to use the referendum as an opportunity for “radical change” in the health service. He also wants the new Government to “urgently” set out a child obesity strategy, warning: ““Piling on the pounds around our children’s waistlines is piling on billions of pounds in future NHS costs.” He’ll likely expand on his vision for the NHS after the referendum this afternoon when he gives evidence to the Commons Health Select Committee.
Brexit may dominate Theresa May’s in-tray, but she is determined not to have that become her be-all and end-all in office. She will use her first Cabinet meeting today to tell ministers that Britain must not be “defined by Brexit” but that everyone should prosper from the “opportunities” it brings. The Prime Minister will tell them it is their “duty” to improve education and skills and explain that social mobility is at the “heart” of her Government. She will plough headlong into Brexit talks later this week when she travels on Wednesday to Berlin for her first face-to-face meeting with Angela Mekrel as Prime Minister. Brexit will inevitably come up, but not in great detail as formal negotiations can’t take place until Britain invokes Article 50 to kick start the process.
May’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has already been meeting with EU leaders, using his first Brussels summit yesterday to vow that Britain will not be “in any way abandoning our leading role” in Europe. William Hague has offered ten points of advice to his successor in today’s Telegraph, telling him he could be “very good” in the role. “Travel a lot,” he writes. “The plane doesn’t break down every day, I assure you – and show all the inhabited continents the energy and internationalism of the United Kingdom. This job is about a lot more than Brexit.”
Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, is to announce that senior NHS managers and hospital trusts will be held criminally liable if they manipulate figures on waiting times or death rates.
Trusts could be fined millions of pounds and managers jailed if they are found to have falsified data used by patients to select where they are treated.
Several NHS hospitals have been accused recently of seeking to obscure high mortality rates by “mis-recording” the reasons for deaths. Such practices make it hard for regulators and the public to identify hospitals that have poor standards of treatment.
Nurses have also alleged privately that they have been told to “massage” waiting time figures by changing the recorded time when patients are treated or discharged.
Speaking in the Commons during a debate on NHS accountability, Mr Hunt, the Health Secretary, became the most senior Government figure to admit that Sir David, the NHS chief executive, was partly at fault for the failings that led to Mid Staffs, where up to 1,200 patients died needlessly.
It comes after it emerged that senior Government figures are considering a plan for Sir David to “pre-announce” his retirement.
Sir David would then step down later this year or early in 2014, having managed the NHS through the first months of major Coalition reforms starting next month
Sir David is under intense political pressure over the Mid Staffs hospital scandal. A public inquiry into Mid Staffs led to calls for his resignation.
David Cameron has backed him to remain in his post, and this week sent him supportive text messages, sources have disclosed.
You may think that all those heavy black lines that obliterate crucial bits of testimony in the Savile report are there to protect the reputations – and the livelihoods – of certain BBC executives. They aren’t. At least, that is not all that they are there to protect. It is not just individuals, you see, whose futures are at stake here. When the BBC made its decision to redact – to obliterate and remove from general view – the most lethal judgments about its own senior staff, it was obeying a higher calling. This was not a shabby exercise in shielding a handful of people from the kind of opprobrium and public shame that might put an end to their careers. Oh, no.
Journalistically, it is bad form to go on about a single subject, so I apologise. It is only two weeks since I wrote about the Mid Staffordshire Trust hospital scandal. But I cannot get it out of my head. There were 1,200 unnecessary deaths. It is much, much bigger than any other British public service disaster in modern times. Yet already we seem to be edging away from it.
In India on Wednesday, our Prime Minister visited Amritsar. There he signed the book of remembrance for the dead, officially 379 people, shot by British troops while demonstrating in 1919. Mr Cameron sensibly did not apologise – he was not, after all, responsible – but he described the Amritsar massacre as “deeply shameful”.
It is officially calculated that, between 2005 and 2009, up to 1,200 patients at Stafford Hospital died needlessly. Let us imagine that a comparable disaster occurred in any other institution or enterprise in this country. Suppose that hundreds of customers of the cold food counter at Sainsbury’s or Tesco died of food poisoning. Suppose that, at an army barracks, large comprehensive, steelworks, bank, hotel, university campus or holiday theme park, people died, and went on dying for years, at rates that hugely exceeded anything that could be attributed to the normal course of nature.
What would happen? In all cases – though more quickly in the private sector than in the public – the relevant management would be sacked. Indeed, the very idea of unnecessary deaths taking years to notice is almost inconceivable. Criminal charges would be brought. In many cases, the offending institution would close down.
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Jeremy Hunt says it is “absolutely disgraceful” that no doctors, nurses or managers have been held to account for the substandard care which led to the deaths of up to 1,200 patients.
He says the Francis report into the scandal has put “evidence in the public domain” which should form the basis of a police investigation and questions the failure of professional bodies to uncover “abuse on such a wide scale”.
The Health Secretary also says there needs to be a major change in culture across the NHS as compassion was being “crushed” out of doctors and nurses by the system.