Purpose and values in the NHS

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It was only last month that we were asked whether a hospital, of all things, would ever need to consider its purpose and values. To those outside the NHS, it is self-evident that a hospital exists to treat people’s health problems and to save lives. Yet today both Robert Francis QC and the Prime Minister have dispelled any notion that the NHS can currently be trusted to deliver such a purpose.

Introducing the final report of his inquiry into the Mid-Staffs hospital scandal, Robert Francis spoke of an NHS trust that “put corporate self-interest and cost control ahead of patients and their safety.”  Responding to the report, David Cameron condemned “a focus on finance and figures at the expense of patient care” in the culture of the NHS.

The facts of the Mid Staffordshire scandal were already established, in part by Robert Francis’s earlier inquiry but also thanks to the campaigning efforts of relatives of some of the hundreds of patients who needlessly died because of negligent and inhumane “care”.

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Health care and the dignity of humans

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The Health Service Ombudsman’s report on how the NHS is failing to treat elderly people with care, dignity and respect begs the question of how a service whose raison d’être is to look after people can so dehumanise them.

The report highlights the cases of ten people who suffered grievous neglect. Many of them were fit, active and healthy before treatment but all but one died during or soon after the events they experienced in the care of the NHS, and in circumstances which caused distress and anger to the patients and their families.

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