Friday, March 1, 2013

Institutionally Inhumane

The blood boils. Honestly, it does. Twitter can be a lot of things and one of them is being exposed to retweets and some of them run the risk of hitting a nerve. So there it was; a retweet from Sarah Calkin, news reporter for HSJ whereby she mentioned that a "Healthwatch England Board member says #Francis report suggests the NHS is "institutionally inhumane".

And all that I felt was a surge of anger. Anger at whoever this individual was, anger at such a blasé statement, the sweeping generalisation of it all, anger at the system which had allowed this to happen..that such statements can even be considered, let alone made. Mid Staffs was a catastrophe, a failing of epic proportions and my individual angst is well documented. There is nothing to defend, nothing to put forward as an excuse apart from promising individually never to let that happen again. Yes, finances and targets were a big factor but what has been galling was the professionals who somehow, somewhere got immune to the suffering..forgot why they decided to choose this profession, the long hours etc in the first place.

But "institutionally inhumane"? Oh come on, Do give me a break. Unless I work on a different planet, I come to work in a sector of the NHS every day morning. I work in a department , where apart from Consultant colleagues, we have numerous nurses, dieticians and administrative staff. And not a single day goes by, where I am not touched or pleasantly surprised by the extra mile gone by someone. That maybe the receptionist asking the elderly lady whether she needs a cup of tea while she awaits her transport or the nurse who stays back, in spite of childcare issues, as she has to phone a patient back. I go to the wards and I see junior doctors ignoring their working hours directives to make sure all the jobs are done or a patient has become ill. I see ward sisters genuinely disappointed when an agency nurse has made an inadvertent error and takes the time to sit down with the patient to explain. I see nurses missing their break to sit down with the grieving relative of a patient who has passed away. Inhumane? Not quite.

I fully appreciate what CureTheNHS is about and indeed more strength to their arms too. But let's not use all this to turn someone's sufferings into a convenient sound byte.
Yes there are changes to be made. Yes the culture needs to improve but don't call this organisation institutionally inhumane. A significant majority go to work every single day in the desire to make someone else better. They battle the politics, the structural upheaval, the economic crunch, the incessant pressure to attain targets....and they still do their job, as best as they can. Lack of humanity is not what they bring to their job..and certainly not where I work every single day. The staff, especially the nurses, have taken a battering in the media and the pain shows. These are good people, trying to do a job in trying circumstances. In between, in such a vast system,mistakes will happen and it's for the processes and support to make sure we minimise them as much as possible. However, no amount of courses, protocols or directives can "teach" you humanity. That's inside the individual.
So next time, any smart Alec wants to come out with some sound byte to please their political master or indeed wants to jump on the bandwagon of NHS bashing, think twice. On one hand, we rail against privatisation and bringing other providers and competition..on the other, we want to destroy the morale of the staff delivering the present system.

So you know what, its now time.Time to make your mind up ladies and gentlemen. Either we say the present system is unfit for purpose, the staff are inhumane, money grabbing philistines and we must bring in alternatives OR we say this is the best possible system but we need to make changes to ensure patient care is never compromised.I know my choice. Your turn now...but be quick. We are running out of time...fast.

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