The lack of compassion shown in hospitals and care homes has been described as “perhaps the most shocking betrayal of NHS founding values in its history” by Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary. He went on to say that the many examples of poor care that have been highlighted in recent years within the NHS should not be happening within what would be considered as a civilized country. These comments were made as he waited for the findings of a public enquiry into the care of patients at Stafford Hospital, where as many as 1200 are thought to have died over a four year period due to neglect. Jeremy Hunt has blamed the targets set under the previous Labour Government for encouraging staff to see patients as numbers rather than people, with institutions worrying more about meeting goals that had been set for them rather than ensuring that patients’ care needs were met, at a time when they were most vulnerable.
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More Needs to be Done
As of April all NHS healthcare providers will have to be more transparent with regards to problems relating to patient care. However, Action Against Medical Accidents, the charity that fights for patient safety and justice, says that this “duty of candour” is not sufficient. They say that patients and families have a right to know if their safety has been put at risk, that they deserve an apology and that health providers need to learn from their mistakes to prevent repetition; fines and restrictions on which services can be offered should also be imposed. While Jeremy Hunt acknowledged that many NHS managers do an excellent job and that it is not an easy one, they will have to be more accountable and may risk losing their job if failings in care are not addressed. He compared it to the situation where managers were unable to control the finances of their institution; they wouldn’t remain in post, so the loss of control of care within their organisation should be no different.
Steps to Improvement
The NHS must ensure that nurses and health care assistants are well prepared for the busy wards that they will face and that they are able to work in an environment which helps them to remain happy and motivated so that they can deliver the compassionate care that led them into their profession. The Government will also insist that every NHS hospital asks each of its patients whether they would advocate the level of care that they received during their stay to a close friend or family member. These results can then be accessed by the public, informing their decision of where they choose to receive care and will help to drive up standards.
By Amy Millband