Andrew Bridgen is Member of Parliament for North West Leicestershire. Follow Andrew on Twitter.
2011 when I commented on this website on the reforms to the structure of the
NHS, I wrote that the organisation had ‘Stalinist Protectionist Elements’. At
the time I was subjected to criticism from those who thought the phrase was too
However the recent facts that have come to light about the scale
of cover up in the NHS have only served to vindicate the point I made. First
there is the case of former United Lincolnshire
Hospitals NHS Trust Chief Executive Gary Walker, paid half a million
pounds in severance and issued with a gagging order after highlighting concerns
about patient safety.
Secondly there is the response to my colleague Steve Barclay’s
Parliamentary question which has found that In just three years there were 598
‘special severance payments’, almost all of which carried confidentiality
clauses, all at a cost of £14.7 million.
Had it not been for the public inquiry in the failings at Mid
Staffordshire NHS Trust, much of this may not have come to light. An enquiry it
is clear the previous government did not want to happen as prior to 2010,
Labour Health Secretaries, latterly the now shadow Secretary of State Andy
Burnham rejected 81 requests for a full public enquiry.
Now leading surgeon Mike Parker, who sits on the council of the
Royal College of Surgeons has been quoted in the Daily Mail saying meetings
with colleagues across the country had made him aware of ‘something akin to
Stalinism’ in the NHS.
It is becoming increasingly clear that a culture of cosy cover ups
has been allowed to develop in the NHS and that is something that has got to
Such emphasis was placed on performance targets by the previous
government that it was placed ahead of patient care. I have constituents who
were victims of the Mid Staffordshire failings and it was clear early on that
hitting financial targets was put ahead of providing an adequate level of
doctors in wards.
Questions have to be asked of those people who were managing the
NHS at that time and those who are doing the job now or who aspire to be doing
the job in the future.
Whilst I have no doubt that Sir David Nicholson is committed and
knowledgeable about the NHS, you cannot get away from fact that he has presided
over a culture of secrecy and cover up that has cost many people their lives.
Can a man so embroiled in this culture really be the person to oversee what
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt calls a new ‘culture of openness and transparency [which] is essential if
we are to ensure we never repeat the mistakes’?
Previous Health Secretaries also have to look at their role in
promoting this cosy culture of cover up. Andy Burnham said in Parliament that
he did not believe ‘that a lengthy, adversarial inquiry would be in the best
interests of health care in Staffordshire’.
Some might argue that fear of Labour’s failing target culture
being exposed and not upsetting vested interests in the NHS before a General
Election could also have played a part.
Failing like this would not be tolerated in a private hospital and
they should not be tolerated within the NHS. In the private sector, management
would have been held accountable.
What is clear is we need to usher in a new era of transparency and
candour if we are to address failures of care within the NHS. The question has
to be asked whether those who presided over the failing can ever be the ones to
turn the organisation around.