People have probably seen the shocking reports from Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust. At least 90 elderly patients died as a direct result of C.difficile, while the infection was definitely a contributing factor in the deaths of a further 124, and a probable factor in another 55. This is nothing short of mass murder.
Patients were left lying in their own excrement, and were told by staff to soil their beds because there were not enough nursing staff or health care assistants to take them to the toilet or fetch them bed pans. The hospital was filthy, because management had cut down on cleaners. Beds were a few inches apart – saving money, because fewer wards were needed, but leading to a lethal spread of infection.
The Board was said by the Healthcare Commission to have been ‘preoccupied with finance’. The same preoccupation existed at Stoke Mandeville, where 30 patients died of C. difficile. They were also prioritising ‘targets’ over care.
Kent police are now looking to prosecute senior managers for manslaughter. Few of us will have a great deal of sympathy for NHS managers who consign patients to death in order to meet financial targets.
However, let’s be clear about the real culprits.
Here’s a quote from the Guardian, in November 2005 – the time when patients were dying at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells:Patricia Hewitt has ordered a winter round of NHS cuts to eliminate the deficit of up to £700m being forecast this year by hospitals and NHS trusts across England. The Guardian has learned that the Department of Health is imposing a policy of zero tolerance to overspending on NHS trusts. The cuts will hit hospitals at the worst possible time…
It’s fine to put the Chief Executive of the Trust in the dock – but she should be joined by Hewitt, Blair and Brown. When you order cuts in NHS spending, people die. It’s that simple.