THE BLOG

Mid Staffordshire Deaths and a Lack of Justice

17/03/2013 11:32 GMT | Updated 16/05/2013 10:12 BST

Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce have been convicted of perverting the course of justice and sentenced to eight months imprisonment after one of the most high profile trials in years. They agreed to let Vicky Pryce take his penalty points enabling him to avoid being disqualified from driving. The Judge, it appears, had to make an example of them to stop other people from doing the same even though it appears no one died or had even been put in direct risk by their activities.

I must confess that I have received points for speeding and I didn't like it but I comforted myself with the thought that if we all kept to the speed limit then lives will be saved. Claims on the number of lives saved per year vary from 300 to 800. In any case people like me should get over it and concentrate on driving to the speed limit. I suspect most of us also know that swapping points is wrong although thousands do it every year.

So far - so good, swapping penalty points is wrong because giving people penalty points saves lives and so a lengthy investigation and a very high profile trial and imprisonment for people who undermine this bit of the judicial system is entirely justified. Its lives that matter here - isn't it?

So if it is saving lives or preventing deaths that matter so much in this country - why haven't we had some high profile police investigations and a high profile trial after the 1200 or so deaths at the Mid Staffordshire, NHS, Foundation, Trust?

Some of the hospitals victims were left to die lying in their own urine and faeces - others were drinking from flower vases because they were not given water. Others fell and injured themselves getting out of bed but no reports were made of the incidents.

All the patients entered the hospital believing they would be looked after and their health might even be improved - never thinking the hospital would allow them to die through neglect.

It is a very sad irony that if the patients had been left thirsty and hungry in the street then they might have stood a better chance of getting help - instead people thought they were safe in hospital and that's what got them in the end.

No one in authority identified the problems or tried to change things, on the contrary there is some evidence that complaints were ignored and problems covered up.

So we have a situation where people entrusted to look after very sick and vulnerable people allowed many of them to die in terrible circumstances in a culture of denial and no one has been held to account. They weren't just callous bystanders walking by an injured person in the street. They were left in charge of these patient's welfare and more than that - they effectively stopped other help being given to these victims because these victims were seen as being in a safe place.

If we speed we get penalty points because it's a way of slowing people down and making road deaths less likely and I think that is fair. Leave hundreds of people to die in squalid circumstances and no one even get penalty points. Hospital staff committed the ultimate breach of trust and instead of helping sick people they allowed them to get worse and die and apparently it's no one's fault.

This is a simplistic comparison of course - the speed camera and penalty point system is relatively simple compared to the vast complexity of NHS healthcare. But even though, in most cases, no one is injured, people are penalised for speeding, and might lose their licences and might go to prison if they take points for someone else whilst some hospital staff ignored their patients and left people to die and no one even gets a caution.

If you steal from a shop you could go to court - get drunk and shout in the street will at least get you a ticket and a fine - leave hundreds of people to die and nothing!

Most NHS staff do a good job I am sure. It is a tough job which most doctors and nurses carry out with great professionalism but the few who let people die needlessly should surely answer for it.

Doctors and nurses cannot react to the deaths of patients the same way the patients family react - they need to be professional and objective to survive their careers but they should not be callous and indifferent and more worried about targets than the lives of fellow human beings who put their trust in them.

In the end - that nothing was done to bring anyone to justice - says something bad about our values as a society.