In my previous two postings I have highlighted the increasing difficulties which Consultants are encountering in their work. The ultimate example of where this can lead is seen in what happened at Stafford. Here all staff were silenced by the knowledge that the management would turn viciously on anyone who spoke out, and yet, by not speaking out medical staff were arguably in breach of GMC good practice guidelines. They were thus in a position akin to a man walking a tightrope while wearing a straitjacket, and a gag.
So let us see what happens to managerial staff when they have misbehaved. What better place to highlight this than Stafford.
For those of you who have been living in a cave Stafford Hospital is the subject of an independent report which can be found here. The report found that, between 2005 and 2008 the hospital board was, through cost cutting exercises, responsible for appallingly poor levels of patient care which may have resulted in as many as 1200 excess deaths. They also found that during this period NHS regulators reported that the Trust was performing well, and it was granted Foundation status.
In fact the problems probably go further back than this. A CHI report as early as 2002 was also highly critical of the Trust.
You might reasonably think that for any manager to be associated with this disaster, would mean their career was finished. Think again.
Although the recent report confines itself to the period between 2005 to 2009, the state of affairs at Stafford probably pre date this period and the executive decisions responsible go back even further, perhaps as far back as 2000. During this period the Trust responsible for Stafford hospital had three chief executives.
From 2004 till recently the post was held by Martin Yeates. Yeates, by resigning has escaped any responsibility for his actions, and did not even give evidence to the enquiry. He seems to have parted on very generous terms. His predecessor was David O’Neill in post from 2001 to 2004. It is clear that he too was making decisions which contributed to the scandal. A search for him on Google yields no results showing his present position. There is no suggestion that he will ever have to answer for his actions at Stafford. His predecessor was David Fillingham. It is probably he who sowed the seeds of destruction during his tenure from 1998 to 2001. Subsequently he was appointed as Chief Executive in Bolton in 2004, introducing something called “lean thinking” in 2005. In 2009 Bolton was highlighted as one of the seven deadliest hospitals in Britain. You have to admire his consistency. He has now been appointed to head AQuA, a new NHS organisation created to improve the quality of health services throughout the North West by supporting NHS staff in improving skills. You could not make it up. Improving quality of health services, entrusted to a sort of NHS peripatetic grim reaper, leaving death in his wake wherever he goes.
In my next post I am going to highlight some of the other angels of death who contributed to the scandal of Stafford, and how their careers have progressed since. Remember at Stafford alone as many as 1200 deaths may be attributed to mismanagement. That is six times more than were killed by Harold Shipman.