CUTBACKS, implemented in order to comply with the government’s drive for Foundation Trusts, were to blame for the unnecessary deaths of more than 400 hospital patients in Mid-Staffordshire, said angry relatives yesterday.
The relatives, who want a public inquiry, called yesterday’s official report into the deaths between 2005 and 2008 by Robert Francis QC a ‘whitewash’ and demanded the resignation of Health Secretary Andy Burnham.
‘We have no trust in foundation trust’ and ‘Burnham resign’, relatives said.
Jim Duff, whose wife died, said: ‘This report is just telling us what we already knew. It’s a waste of time. A whitewash.
‘Even our own solicitors had to sign that they couldn’t tell us what they heard,’ he added, slamming the secretive nature of the inquiry.
Duff said it was clear that the deaths were the result of cost-cutting in order to meet financial targets for hospitals to gain Foundation Trust status, carrying out the government’s privatisation policy.
‘I think it could never have gained Foundation Trust status,’ said Duff.
‘It was only because Andy Burnham signed it off to be a Foundation Trust that it got there.
‘It was incapable of doing the finances to run that hospital with a £10 million cut.’
Jim Duff said responsibility for the Mid-Staffs scandal ‘leads all the way back, right up the tree to Andy Burnham’, the government’s health minister.
Describing the conditions at the Trust, he said: ‘There’d be no water to drink, the food would be left on the table till the next meal time.
‘My wife caught C-diff, which wasn’t diagnosed, I had to tell the doctor she’d got it.
‘Health and safety was ignored,’ he continued.
‘Instead of using a hoist, they were manhandled, people were left in their own faeces.
‘Medication was not given out properly and nurses ignored the patients and the buzzers.
‘And there were a lot more patients that were even more vulnerable – at least she’d got me there to take care of her, to help, some were there, elderly, on their own, with nobody, and were totally ignored.
‘We already knew what was going to come out in this report.
‘We could tell Robert Francis what he was going to put in it. It’s been a whitewash and a waste of money.’
Before the Mid-Staffs report was published yesterday, relative Julie Bailey, of Save the NHS, received a call from the Health Secretary.
A furious Julie Bailey told Burnham: ‘We invited you to address the relatives of 400 people who lost their lives and you didn’t even come and meet us!’
She said after the report was published: ‘We haven’t even begun to get answers.’
She said the report ‘was set up by lawyers for lawyers.
‘We need to go outside the hospital, which is what we’ve been saying since the report by the Healthcare Commission came out’.
She said concerned relatives had repeatedly warned about what was going on but they had been met with a wall of silence.
‘The Healthcare Commission reported 400 to 1200 deaths, to us that’s too wide. We don’t even know how many people died at Stafford Hospital unnecessarily,’ she said.
She said her message to Burnham was: ‘We’re going nowhere without a full public inquiry into why our relatives died.’
Karen Jennings, head of health for Unison, the biggest NHS trade union, said: ‘The desire to become a Foundation Trust would seem to have distracted hospital management away from the patients and onto their finances.’
BMA leader, Dr Hamish Meldrum, chairman of the BMA Council, said: ‘The fact that Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust was more focused on meeting government targets, achieving foundation status and saving money, demonstrates very clearly what happens when financial pressures and a tick-box culture are more important than delivering high-quality patient care.’
Health Secretary Burnham made a statement to parliament, saying: ‘I can tell the House today that I accept Robert Francis’s recommendation to consider asking Monitor (the independent regulator) to de-authorise Mid-Staffs.
‘My strong view, in the light of this report, and the support that the Trust is likely to need for the medium and long-term, is that I will ask Monitor to consider de-authorising when the powers come into effect in the coming months.’
Unfortunately, the dead patients, casualties of the cuts required to become an NHS Foundation Trust cannot be brought back to life.