The dreadful news that five people have died in an NHS hospital probably owing to tampering with a saline drip has profoundly shocked me. People are at their most vulnerable when they go into hospital. They have to trust the caring staff, and expect them to administer proven treatments with high quality medical supplies.
I am almost at a loss for words to read that probably a member of the NHS staff deliberately contaminated a drip in a way which led to so many disturbing deaths. I understand that this is a rare event, and that many NHS staff are caring and dedicated professionals. The police are trying to get to the bottom of this case. So far no-one has been found guilty, and I do not wish to post items making allegations about individuals for obvious legal reasons.
I was not prepared to use the very lurid language some have chosen to discuss the question of phone hacking. Whilst I like others condemn law breaking where it has occurred, and think it bad that victims of tragedy were also subject to it, the deaths in hospital put it into some kind of perspective. Surely our strongest language is needed to talk of our shock when people die from unnatural causes in hospital?
I think the media should also ask itself some questions about the amount of air time devoted to phone hacking compared to the amount of airtime devoted to deaths in hospital. Have they got the balance right? Aren’t most people more concerned that hospitals should be safe?
I also think the treatment would have been very different if the deaths had occurred in a private hospital, acting under contract for the NHS or for paying patients. I can imagine the item having much more airtime. Wouldn’t interviewers have been queueing up to demand disciplinary action at the hospital, to demand resignations of management, to seek the cancellation of contracts or even the closure of the unit? Wouldn’t there have been endless denuncations of profit making models in health care? Wouldn’t this all have taken place well before the police enquiries were finished, as it is with the News International case?
Instead, because this tragedy has happened in an NHS unit, there is a strange calm, a collective shrugging of the shoulders, a sense that these dreadful things can happen. Shouldn’t the Health Select Committee be looking into the general question of whether NHS staff can tamper with medical supplies unobserved? Shouldn’t there be demands for tighter procedures and better controls? Shouldn’t action be taken now to reassure the patients and public?