Jeremy Hunt at the crossroads, 4 April 2014

Rachael Maskell, Health sector national officerBy Rachael Maskell, Unite head of Health

Health mnister, Dan Poulter’s immediate dismissal of the independent report the ‘NHS at the Crossroads’, a landmark report into the state of the NHS in London, highlights how the lessons of Mid Staffs are not being learnt by the government.

Unite commissioned an independent report into London’s NHS after accumulating evidence of the meltdown of services in the midst of the NHS crisis. The inquiry, under the chairmanship of respected health commentator and former NHS chief executive Roy Lilly, which took oral evidence from 95 people and received written submissions from clinicians, policy formers and patients scrutinised the state of the NHS across Britain’s capital and came up with 18 recommendations resulting from the high levels of concern raised.

Financing of the NHS is now at dangerous levels which is impacting on clinical decision making and patient safety, and the deficit of strategic oversight is resulting in service failure. When chief executives, clinicians, patients and even tory policy advisors coalesce over their concern for the NHS, it is shocking that the Health Minister is all too ready to dismiss the report before digesting the evidence from which it was written.

Robert Francis highlighted the dangers of evidence-based concern being dismissed by managers before scrutinising their content. This government would appear not to have learnt any lessons from the root concerns of Mid Staff, and continue to be complicit in embracing the culture that Mid Staffs brought to the fore – dismissing genuine concern. This dangerous attitude, yet again highlights the fundamental problems engulfing the NHS. 

Clinicians, by nature of their statutory professional regulation are called to practice under the scrutiny of others and abide by a strong evidence base to justify their practice, and yet the code of decision makers is to run roughshod over evidence and celebrate political point scoring and cover up errors as they occur. There isn’t a single commentator now heralding the coalitions Health and Social Care Act 2012 as a success, most are overtly critical, and plea for its repeal.

With Jeremy Hunt about to make a speech on Wednesday, 26 March, comparing Mid Staffs to Chernobyl, it now has to be asked if Hunt himself is at the centre of creating the nuclear reaction across the NHS. The dangerous fallout from his health team’s complacent position, is that the culture that he and his colleagues are modelling is radiating out of Whitehall and decimating our NHS.

Hunt is now at the crossroads – but where is his duty of candour.