“The report into mistreatment and negligence at Stafford Hospital, England is more than an indictment of a single hospital or National Health Service Trust. It is a chilling example of the impact of the running down and privatisation of NHS provision by successive governments, and a warning as to the tragic consequences of these policies for working people.
Up to 1,200 patients are estimated to have died as a result of the poor care they received at the general hospital, part of the Mid Staffordshire NHS hospital trust, between January 2005 and March 2009.
The hospital has been the subject of five official reports in as many years. Finally, on February 6, the report on a 31-month public inquiry into the trust was released, chaired by Robert Francis QC.
Conditions stemmed from the drive by the Labour government to cuts costs and creeping privatisation. In 2006 Mid Staffordshire Trust was told it must gain Foundation Trust status. This Labour-initiative was aimed at making hospitals semi-independent of the Department of Health, “freeing” them to find private sources for their budgets.
The price of gaining foundation trust status was the trust’s decision to reduce costs by £10 million. “The board decided this saving could only be achieved through cutting staffing levels, which were already insufficient,” Francis reported, with 150 jobs being lost. “A chronic shortage of staff, particularly nursing staff, was largely responsible for the substandard care,” that report stated.
One result was that receptionists without medical training were made responsible for evaluating the requirements of patients admitted to Accident and Emergency.
Although staff had spoken out, they were ignored or intimidated while others were discouraged from complaining on the grounds that this would further harm hospital care.”
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