The NHS was once the envy of the world – but is it still?
Last month, Robert Francis delivered a damning report on the Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust, where several hundred patient deaths were caused by poor standards of care.
Since then, 14 NHS trusts have been placed under investigation over high mortality rates.
And this week the Care Quality Commission reported that elderly patients were not being treated with the dignity or respect they deserve in nearly a fifth of NHS hospitals inspected over the last year.
For retired Sales Director Peter Bridle it comes as no surprise. His mother Patricia, a former nurse, died aged 86 at the Alexandra Hospital, in Redditch.
He is scathing about the care she received at the hospital and has received a personal apology from the Chief Executive who says that “significant changes” have now been made there to ensure best possible care, respect and dignity for patients.
Patricia’s was one of 35 cases of patient neglect at the Alexandra Hospital between 2002 and 2011.
But it is not only patients and their families who are worried about the care and compassion being administered in hospitals.
Nurse Helene Donnelly worked at Stafford Hospital for six years. She tells of her shame at the behaviour of some nurse colleagues and how she would sometimes return home in tears at the way patients were being treated.
But she felt her concerns about standards of care at the hospital – now under new management - were wilfully ignored by hospital managers at the time.
Dr Peter Carter, at the Royal College of Nursing, believes that medical advancements and an ageing population have placed increasing demands upon the profession.
He fears that some nurses are left “burnt-out” by the demands of the job.
And Julie Bailey of Cure the NHS tells reporter Fiona Foster that a change of culture goes hand in hand with a change of leadership.
She has demanded the resignation of NHS boss Sir David Nicholson, though he is on record as saying he is the best man to usher in a new era in which patient care is at the heart of the system. And he has been backed by the Prime Minister and the Health Secretary.
The programme goes to Hillingdon Hospital in Uxbridge where it speaks to nurses who are in training for a hospital career.
Senior Charge Nurse Mark Troup, who is responsible for training, says he gets extremely angry when critics allege that compassion has gone out of the profession.
– Mark Troup, Senior Charge Nurse
When you’re looking after families of bereaved relatives and you see student nurses and junior staff nurses holding the hands of people who have just lost their loved ones, you can’t say that compassion has died in our profession.”
The body responsible for protecting standards of care in the NHS is the Care Quality Commission.
– David Behan, Chief Executive, Care Quality Commission
I think people want to know when they use a hospital is it safe? Will it look after me and will it make me better? What we know is that the leadership and culture of organisations is absolutely critical to how those questions are going to be answered. I don’t think we’ve looked at those questions hard enough in the past and we’ll change the way we inspect to make sure we focus on those.”
The Government says it’s planning to strengthen laws protecting whistleblowers from any form of bullying and promises to outlaw gagging clauses where they relate to patient care.