So a public servant who was in charge of nursing at a hospital that was complicit in the deaths of 1,200 people is not accountable to the people who paid her wages. If the buck doesn’t stop with Dr Moss, who the hell does it stop with? Certainly not Stafford’s former chief executive, Martin Yeates, who cut 150 jobs to save £10 million at a time when there were already serious safety concerns. An external report recommended that there was a case for disciplinary action against Mr Yeates, but the hospital board decided on “pragmatic and commercial grounds” to negotiate terms for an agreed departure. Therefore, unlike many of his former patients, Mr Yeates left Stafford hospital not in a wooden box, but with a £400,000 payoff.
This is the real threat to our health service. It isn’t George Osborne’s blunt and rusting axe; despite Ed Miliband’s taunting, David Cameron has no intention of letting the NHS become his Poll Tax. It is our own arrogant, complacent beatification of that service, and those who work within it.
If we are to name and shame the bankers, fine. But let’s name and shame the guilty nurses and doctors of Mid Staffs, and the other Killing Trusts too. If we’re up for serious, radical reform of our failing financial sector, fine. But then let’s be equally strident in our calls for reform of an NHS which is just as guilty of systemic failure.
We are not protecting our NHS by placing it on a pedestal and venerating it. We are killing in it. And our NHS, in turn, is killing us.
It is time for a serious public debate, not about the NHS, as if it is the only option, but about health policy in the UK. It is time to talk intelligently about what is done in other countries, and to start to recognise that what is wrong with the NHS is its very core. No country can have a best practice health care provider that is a bureaucracy rivaled only by the army in China and the railways in India.