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May 11, 2010

Dr Phil’s Private Eye Column Issue 1263, May 12, 2010
Filed under: Private Eye — Tags: , , , — Dr. Phil @ 10:07 am

Bully balls

Whatever happens to the NHS post-election, it desperately needs to be freed from its bullying culture. ‘New’ Labour talked a lot of tosh about devolution and empowerment  but controlled mercilessly from the centre and swept dissenters aside, as illustrated by the shockingly unfair dismissal of the chief executive of Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust (RCHT) John Watkinson.

Watkinson took up his post in January 2007 and proved to be a popular and effective leader until he had the temerity to challenge Sir Ian Carruthers, the chief executive of the South West Strategic Health Authority (and a former acting Chief Executive of the NHS). In 2008,  Carruthers decided to centralise upper gastrointestinal’ cancer cervices to a single site in Plymouth rather than spread them out over the three existing sites in Plymouth, Exeter and Cornwall.

The need for reconfiguration was not disputed by Watkinson – complex treatment needs a concentration of expertise and resources – but he wanted more debate about whether Plymouth was the best choice and was wary of the fact that the then health minister Ben Bradshaw had lent support to his own unit in Exeter, which would have left Cornish patients with a two-hour trip

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May 2, 2010

Dr Phil’s Private Eye Column, Issue 1263, April 28, 2010
Filed under: Private Eye — Tags: , , — Dr. Phil @ 5:49 pm

Junior Doctors under Labour

Has the care provided by junior doctors got better under Labour? Certainly the hours worked have come down, with a limit of 48 hours a week imposed by European law last August, but there’s mounting evidence that this has not been done in a way that has improved medical training or made hospitals safer for patients, especially at night. A snapshot review by the Royal College of Physicians of the care provided by 887 clinical teams found that only 6% of teams included a consultant on duty at night, and that a single junior doctor could be responsible for as many as 400 patients (average 61).

When MD started this column eighteen years ago, one of the first stories was of a junior doctor covering 360 geriatric in-outpatients at night, some of whom were very ill and sprawled over eighteen wards (14/2/1992). By this measure, the hospital at night is no safer than it was then and many would argue it is much less safe. Eighteen years ago doctors worked ludicrous hours but were part of teams, had far more help at hand, got more on the job training, followed patients through and had rooms

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April 7, 2010

Dr Phil’s Private Eye Column, Issue 1259, March 31, 2010
Filed under: Private Eye — Tags: , , , — Dr. Phil @ 5:38 pm

Whistleblowing under Labour

It’s now over a decade since the Public Interest Disclosure Act was introduced to protect whistleblowers but the bullying of and discrimination against those who raise concerns in the NHS is still rife. Consultant paediatrician Dr Kim Holt used to work in the Haringey clinic, run by Great Ormond Street Hospital, where the imminent danger to Baby Peter was not spotted. In April 2006 – a year before Baby Peter was seen –Dr Holt was removed from her post after she and three other doctors wrote to management warning of tragedy due to failings including staff shortages, dangerous over-working and poor record-keeping. When Baby P was found dead, the hospital allegedly offered Dr Holt money to remain silent about her complaints.

Dr Holt claimed the hospital managers panicked after Baby Peter’s death: ‘They said I had to withdraw my allegation or the money was off the table. They were trying to buy my silence.’ Dr Holt refused to sign a statement saying all her concerns had been addressed. ‘I was not going to be gagged. I must speak about this because it is so wrong. If our concerns had been taken seriously at the time we

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March 22, 2010

Dr Phil’s Private Eye Column, Issue 1258, March 17, 2010
Filed under: Private Eye — Tags: , , — Dr. Phil @ 10:02 am

 Labour’s dead babies

‘The death of a child is an unbearable sorrow that no parent should have to endure’ said Gordon Brown a year ago. And yet Labour’s record in providing safe services to critically ill babies is lamentable. Whatever cause the current inquiry finds for the deaths of four babies following heart surgery in Oxford, it’s patently clear that the unit simply isn’t fit for purpose. With just one dedicated paediatric cardiac surgeon (now departed) and one surgeon mixing adult and paediatric work, it beggars belief that – after the Bristol scandal – Labour could have allowed such a small unit to carry on performing such complex surgery.

This is not a new argument. Since exposing the Bristol scandal just 18 years ago, MD has argued ad nauseum that highly specialised healthcare must be concentrated in fewer units that are safely staffed and equipped. Hardly rocket science. The Kennedy Inquiry reached the same conclusion in 2001 and triggered an expert review, chaired by cardiac surgeon James Munro, which recommended that the number of child heart surgery centres be reduced to six. Labour ignored the recommendations. NHS Medical Director and cardiac surgeon Bruce Keogh realised that another disaster was imminent,

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March 4, 2010

Dr Phil’s Private Eye Column, Issue 1257, March 3, 2010
Filed under: Private Eye — Tags: , — Dr. Phil @ 8:56 am

Medicine Balls: A Tale of Two Scandals

What goes around, comes around. The Bristol heart scandal of 1984-1995 occurred under the Tories’ watch but it was the incoming Labour government that ordered a Public Inquiry and used the results to impose sweeping, centrist health reforms. Now the Mid Staffs scandal – which in many ways is worse than Bristol – has occurred under Labour’s watch and it’s the Tories lobbying hard for a Public Inquiry, the results of which – if they get in – will doubtless be used to force their own ideology on the NHS.

The Bristol heart surgeons at least cared deeply about their work and were trying their best, even when their results for complex heart surgery were demonstrably poor. The Francis Inquiry into Mid Staffs, held behind closed doors but published last week, is more troubling: “It was striking how many accounts related to basic nursing care as opposed to clinical errors leading to injury or death”.

The Kennedy Inquiry found that from 1991 to 1995, between 30 and 35 more children under one died after open heart surgery in Bristol compared to a typical NHS child heart surgery centre at that time. 198 recommendations

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