Affairs and events at Stafford need to make us pause and reflect.
This follows the highly critical report published this week into the care provided by Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust. The Inquiry Chairman, Robert Francis QC, concluded that patients were routinely neglected by a Trust that was preoccupied with cost cutting, targets and processes and which lost sight of its fundamental responsibility to provide safe care. It has been widely reported in the press and media and is considered to be probably the worst scandal regarding patient care to have affected the NHS since its inception.
As somebody who believes fundamentally in the values and the ethos of the National Health Service I was shocked, sickened, devastated and demoralised to read the contents and finding this report. I personally worked Stafford Hospital in 1987 in the oral surgery department and found it to be a wonderful place to work. That is why I find the contents of this report particularly painful. I come from a family that has been honoured and privileged to have served and worked in the NHS since the 1950s. My father is a retired general medical practitioner and my two sisters and brother have worked in general medical practice and hospital medicine. I personally am proud to be an NHS dentist in an area of high social deprivation and high needs. I have built my practice and its reputation over the past 15 years providing high-quality care to my patients irrespective of their background.
It seems as though the flame of care and compassion was extinguished from the corridors of Stafford Hospital at the time when these terrible tragic events took place. The fundamental duty of care appears to have been abandoned by the staff concerned. As a registered dentist with the General Dental Council it is my duty to put the interests of my patients above all else. This also applies to my nursing and support staff who are also registered. Failure to do so could end up with us facing disciplinary procedures from our regulatory body. The over arching and paramount duty of care to our patients is something that we do not forget every single day when we come to work.
The management structures at the hospital came in for criticism in the report as well. The Francis report highlighted a culture of failed management where poor medical practice was ignored and patient complaints and concerns were either dismissed or ignored. This was all against a background of target driven spending cuts. As a team leader, manager and a director of Langley Dental Group I encourage an open and honest culture amongst all my staff where they should feel able to come forward without fear or favour. All staff undergo a system of annual appraisals and objective setting. These objectives tie in with the short medium and long term aims of the business. We are all aware that within the NHS we are working in financially difficult times where value for money is vitally important. However we must not lose sight of the fact that our primary duty is to care and look after our patients to the best of our ability. This is something that appears to have been forgotten at Stafford.
The local health services and inspectors also faced criticism in the Francis report. It appears that failings in the inspection system were rampant right up to the highest level. Quality and high standard starts from the grass roots at the front line. Here at Langley Dental Practice we have been members of the British Dental Association Good Practice Scheme since 2011 and last year we had a positive inspection report from the Care Quality Commission (CQC). We are always prepared that our practice could be inspected at any time so we do our best to maintain our standards day in and day out and not just when we know inspectors are coming.
This report pointed to failings at a large hospital – failings that went right up to the door of government and to the Department of Health itself. We are just a small dental practice in Manchester. However I believe that all organisations within the the NHS must remember at all levels whether large or small that compassionate care of patients is at the forefront of what we do. If we all take time to reflect and refocus on these essential core values we will then be able to try and do the best for our patients at all times.