Hospitals are today bracing themselves for severe criticism over thousands of “needless deaths”. A report conducted by NHS England medical director, Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, is expected to reveal that 14 healthcare trusts had higher than expected death rates between 2010 and 2012. Assuming the high mortality rates at these trusts are attributed to poor care, medical errors and mismanagement, it will show that the Mid Staffordshire hospital scandal was not an isolated incident.
Temperatures will soar at Westminster. Tories will seize on the findings of the review to launch attacks on Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham, who was responsible for the NHS between June 2009 and May 2010. Labour will defend its management of the health service and criticise the government for politicising the issue and ignoring warnings. Everyone will throw up their hands in despair and the NHS regulators will be exposed as unfit for purpose.
In the last few years, we’ve had similar systemic or institutional failings in banking, the police, the press and others, all blamed on inadequate regulation and/or enforcement. It makes you suspect that the very core of our country is becoming rotten. And if that is the case, we really have two choices. We can bind ourselves in more and more regulation and castigate, insult and penalise one another in an unedifying race to the bottom. Or we can resolve to be better people, individually and collectively, and haul the country up by its bootstraps.
If we want to enhance the quality of care in our health service, for example, we need to reward good doctors and nurses, not focus exclusively on the bad ones. We need to make an adjustment to our culture so that we don’t just look for fault and try to correct it. We should start looking for success and try to reinforce it. Let’s start dishing out some praise and rewarding high performers for a change. We don’t have to be sucked into the vortex of all these sinking ships. With a more positive outlook, we might discover that a rising tide raises all boats.