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Friday 12 April 2013

Postscript 2: You could make it up

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A last return to the subject of Stafford Hospital and not the statistics, this time, but the human face.

Steve Walker, whose coverage I have been covering, has secured a heart-rending interview with some of the nurses. The people made out in the same media who have played loose with numbers to be witches and evil. The people banned from speaking.

They explain how the level of care was tied to the removal of resources, not human behaviour, their behaviour. The vicious media campaign has devastated them:
Several of the nurses told me of their frustration at the media’s acceptance of the claims by campaign group Cure the NHS (‘Cure’) that nobody from the hospital had apologised to them for the poor care they felt their relatives had received. Two nurses told me that they had apologised in person to Cure leaders – even though they were apologising for something beyond their ability to prevent – and had been thanked for doing so.
One nurse told me of a day that she had worked an extra 12-hour shift at the hospital because there was no one else available to provide cover. As she left the ward, exhausted, at the end of a shift she wasn’t obliged to do, she saw that someone had scrawled on the notice board,
There was a sense of helplessness to put forward a counter-view, as all staff had been banned by the new chief executive from making any positive statements or responses on the grounds that it would be ‘insensitive to the families’. Yet when staff appealed to him to stop people from coming into the Accident and Emergency unit and abusing staff, he told them,
I can’t do that.
Staff are still banned from speaking out, especially to the press. But there was no such restraint in the opposite direction. One nurse was spat upon in the street several times, while others were called murderers as they walked with their young children. As I heard these stories, the outrage I felt was barely mirrored in the faces of those telling them. Instead there were red eyes, and tears – a sense of hurt and grief more than resentment.
These were not hard-hearted harpies, but kindly, capable women treated like monsters for circumstances outside their control. One told me:
They said everyone was responsible – but it wasn’t true. There was a lack of resources, a lack of numbers, a lack of even the right forms – how can we be responsible for that?
They did complain, and report, and use procedure, but this is a typical experience:
I blew the whistle about something. The next thing, I was ‘named and shamed’ in a staff meeting, with minutes and everything. I rang the NMC (Nursing and Midwifery Council) and the RCN in flood of tears and was told:

“You can fight it – but it’s Stafford. You won’t get anywhere.”
They feel betrayed. Says Walker:
The public’s anger has been directed at the wrong people – and we shouldn’t forgive the misdirection either.

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