Health secretary Jeremy Hunt’s presentation of the Keogh Report was marred by ‘spinning’ and political point scoring – yahboo politics of the worst kind.
What Hunt should have been concentrating on was the concise and well-rounded conclusions of the review, headed by Sir Bruce Keogh, the NHS medical director, into high death rates at 14 NHS trusts.
The fact that the health secretary had to spend so much time attacking the record of the last government on the NHS demonstrates that he is a lightweight minister, out of his depth and failing to get a grip of his brief.
Since he took up his job ten months ago, he has behaved like a handwringing spectator blaming everyone else for the problems faced by the increasingly privatised NHS, except himself.
He needs to roll up his sleeves and take responsibility for what is happening under his very eyes.
What should not be forgotten is that the underlying policy of this government, instituted by Hunt’s predecessor, Andrew Lansley, is the privatisation of the NHS in its 65th year. That’s why Hunt blusters so much when what he should be doing is showing compassion for the families whose loved ones needlessly died.
As a first step, Hunt should immediately introduce emergency legislation to parliament so he can resume full responsibility for the NHS and sort out the expensive privatised dog’s dinner that is the Health and Social Care Act. The Tories conveniently wrote themselves out of being able to do anything to amend the act before it went onto the statute book.
The Francis report into the grave abuses at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust has to be implemented in full. Since the report came out, we have seen unworkable headlines, but no action - we cannot continue with this time wasting ‘fiddling while Rome burns’ approach.”
In February Unite welcomed the Francis report, particularly the importance of whistleblowing on poor practice; the regulation of healthcare support workers; and hiding information about poor care becoming a criminal offence. Unite also called for all NHS institutions to have an independent ‘patient safety officer’, so staff and patients can raise concerns without reprisal.
It is for the governors and management of the NHS to ensure that they set out safer pathways as that’s what they are paid to do; and that there is sufficient staff to deliver medical care 24/7, 365 days a year. The current scapegoating of staff is no longer acceptable.
From now on, clinical evidence has to be the template for all that happens in the NHS - not cutting costs, services and staff numbers and introducing cuts to the skill mix. Money saving short cuts lead to shorter life spans and risks to patient care.
The public also need to be able to raise concerns independently and easily. We need the restoration of Community Health Councils (CHCs) with powers to investigate complaints, not the current toothless HealthWatch.
Finally, it should be noted that non-NHS bodies, i.e. private and "3rd sector" organisations are not obliged to even release the figures about how many staff they employ, under the so-called commercial confidentiality rules. So much for the “disinfectant of transparancy”.
But then as we know Hunt’s game is not openness, but the selling off the NHS to the private healthcare companies, many of which contribute handsomely to the coffers of the Tory party, as fast as possible.
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