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Annals of Government Medicine

The Telegraph previews a report on an investigation into the Stafford Hospital scandal in the U.K.:


The Sunday Telegraph understands that the report on Stafford hospital, where up to 1,200 people died needlessly in appalling conditions, will call for an overhaul of regulation to ensure poor managers are weeded out, and better training for nurses and healthcare assistants.

The chairman, Robert Francis QC, is set to deliver a damning verdict on the whole of the health service. He will warn of a “culture of fear” from Whitehall down to the wards, in which pressure is heaped on staff to put management demands before patients.

Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, said the events at Stafford, and a series of failings at other hospitals, represented “the most shocking betrayal of NHS founding values in its history”. Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Hunt said five hospitals, including Stafford, had reported failings in recent years “that are simply not worthy of a civilised society”.

So it isn’t just Stafford. On the contrary, the report apparently will indict the entire National Health Service:

It can be disclosed that:

• Mr Francis will say radical changes to the supervision and regulation of health care are required to protect patients and to respond to a “tide of public anger” about the scandal, which has drained confidence in the rest of the health service;

• His report will warn that the scandal demonstrated “systemic” failings in NHS regulation, meaning that equally terrible care could be happening in other hospitals, without being uncovered;

• He will paint a picture of the NHS gripped by a “culture of fear” as managers became fixated on meeting targets and protecting ministers from political criticism over Labour’s stewardship of the service.

But of course: that is the essence of government medicine. It is intended to benefit politicians and bureaucrats, not patients. So what can the U.K. do to try to reform its broken system? It appears that the forthcoming report will call for more effective regulation, but the problems that have been exposed in recent years are the result of failures of regulation and are inherent to socialism, which doesn’t work any better in the health care industry than anywhere else. The real solution is to restore competition to the health care sector, but once competition has been destroyed by government monopoly, restoring it is not easy. In the meantime, like everything else run by the government, health care is politicized:

The report, which will go first to Mr Hunt and is set to be published days later, will provide an excoriating account of a highly politicised system.

As you would expect in a politicized system, the litany of horrors goes on:

James Paget University Foundation Trust was threatened with prosecution in September 2011 after regulators found patients were not being helped to eat and drink. A month later, Queen’s Hospital in Romford, Essex, was accused of a “culture of abuse” by regulators after a string of deaths of women and newborns.

At East Surrey Hospital, secret filming exposed the bullying of a dying man with Parkinson’s disease in December 2010. Last July, regulators found University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust subjected patients to a litany of failures, dating back to 2008 when a baby, Joshua Titcombe, bled to death.

This is what the Democratic Party is determined to inflict on you and your family.

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