Hunt must put NHS culture under the knife

1995 library filer of Chris Moncrieff. Photo by Peter Smith/PA
1995 library filer of Chris Moncrieff. Photo by Peter Smith/PA
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The brave British soldiers of the First World War were described as “lions led by donkeys”.

The same maxim can be used to describe the parlous state of the National Health Service.

By and large, the doctors and nurses who toil on the front line are dedicated, kindly, efficient and highly professional.

Most people emerge from NHS care with nothing but praise for the way they are looked after and treated.

But the army of pen-pushers, paper-shufflers and the like who infest the organisation are giving the NHS a bad name and seem obsessed with financial targets to the detriment of patient care. But the most breathtaking issue of all is that the head of the NHS, Sir David Nicholson, who presided over the Mid Staffordshire hospital disaster that cost the lives of up to 1,200 patients, is still in his job.

It has also claimed he ignored warnings about another hospital trust under investigation for the possible needless deaths of 670 people. He has publicly said he feels no shame for what has happened. So what do you have to do before you either resign or get booted out?

Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, the other day talked about “a culture of self-preservation” within the NHS.

So, what is he waiting for? Why doesn’t he simply give this man his marching orders? It defies belief that this situation has been allowed to go on as long as it has.

Now a whistleblower has spoken out about the terrible conditions in some hospitals. He was sacked (for gross professional misconduct for allegedly swearing in a meeting) and paid £500,000 on condition he kept quiet.

And now the heavy mob have moved in, reportedly threatening he may have to repay the £500,000 for breaching that gagging order.

The whole situation is a scandal and a mess. Hunt must do more than merely mouth platitudes about what is going on. He must act - and act now.

Thomas Bowdler, the man who deleted the “smutty” bits from Shakespeare’s works, appears still to be alive and kicking, thanks to the current obsession with political correctness.

Attempts (some of them successful, I regret to say) to eradicate allegedly racist passages from Enid Blyton’s children’s stories, written 60 years ago, simply demonstrates the stupidity of much of this legislation.

Maybe people would not write these stories now in the way that she wrote them then.

But “now” is not “then” and by censoring them these do-gooders are actually interfering with social history.

Now there is a row about whether to erect an Enid Blyton plaque in her home town, Beaconsfield.

All this is on a par with the BBC doing its best to eliminate Harold Wilson’s pipe in a film about him. What nonsense!