Readers of my articles in this portfolio will know that I am passionate about the care aspect of health, especially as I have had family experiences with the health system. I tried to convey in a clear way in my last article that care should be and should always be the most vital element of health. I stated how the Care Quality Commission has now decided to look more into the patient’s views on their care. This is a move which has been welcomed by many, but, unfortunately, isn’t as clear cut as it seems with the CQC, and- to follow on from my opening paragraph in my last article- it is because of the CQC that health has gone from bottom of the news pile to the top.
The CQC has got into some hot water recently as several cases have emerged at hospitals in Cumbria where there were investigations about the deaths of young infants. We now know that the investigations were reported incorrectly and that there was a cover-up to protect the names of the managers and other people who were responsible. Also, the cover-up meant that instead of reporting the honest facts about the cases, they gave the organisations involved very positive feedback. This has now led to huge question about the integrity of the CQC, especially as they were reluctant to disclose the names of those responsible. This story has now meant that many of the families affected by these cases have rights to take legal action, and has even led to the Department of Health (most notably Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt MP and Minister Lord Howe) wanting a full disclosure of names.
It seems that the basic principles of care were ignored once again in order to clear the organisations and people involved. The words used about the whole debacle like ‘rotten’, ‘shocking’ and ‘unacceptable’ have left the health system in a very negative light. It isn’t the case of the misreporting of information but the fact that someone somewhere or some people somewhere have made it their purpose to forcefully cover up their mistakes that has made it so much worse, especially in terms of confidence (something the NHS and health system is lacking after the disastrous A&E crisis over the last few months).
This has also left the question of public domain - what information needs to be able to be accessed by the public? Do the public need to know and why? This case has certainly shown that the NHS isn’t as transparent as perhaps the Prime Minister would like. In fact, it shows the NHS is still not rid of the active attempt to cover-up mistakes, something the government wanted to see an end of when they came to power in May 2010.
This whole case shows the true independence of certain organisations. If the CQC is quick (or extremely slow in many cases) to point out other people’s mistakes, then when its own mistakes are pointed out, doesn’t want to recognise them, it shows a big flaw in their independence. And it does ring a very loud metaphorical bell in my mind about how it is missing the most vital thing - CARE ... (Regular readers will be thinking I have used this line many times but it is important) and it is true, the CQC have seemed to have missed the point of the quality of care for the sake of people’s positions in the NHS.
From the political point of view, this is isn’t good for the government, as with just under two years until the next general election health is all over the place. It isn’t all down to the current government, there were problems under the previous government, but the health system is suffering and more importantly, health care is suffering too. Many people (quite rightly) are feeling that they have been cheated by people in positions of integrity and honesty and CARE who have decided to cover up their mistakes, and some are even questioning who else knew? Why did they know? And for the concerned people involved, what will be done about it? There is but one final question to be asked, which is exactly how caring is the Care Quality Commission? The answers to that and the other questions in this article hopefully will be revealed by the CQC but the likelihood is they probably won’t, and as I say, this situation really isn’t good for the transparency of the NHS which the government so desperately wants.
Backbench Minister for Health