Today, the headlines in the Daily Telegraph read:
"It is beyond belief that in a modern city like Birmingham, a child of seven was withdrawn from school and kept in squalid conditions for five months before finally dying of starvation"
But equally well, virtually the same headlines could have been used yesterday about the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust:
"It is beyond belief, that in a modern country like England, patients were kept in squalid conditions and robbed of their dignity before finally dying of neglect".
When a child at home dies of neglect, quite rightly, the parents are prosecuted for murder, or as in in the above case, for manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.
Yet something like 1200 patients in a major hospital died after being thoroughly neglected and being "abused by hostile staff and left in humiliating and undignified conditions". They were "robbed of their dignity" and left in soiled bedclothes, unwashed and in states of undress in full view of others until the eventually died. Even Dr Shipman didn't do that as he killed his victims quickly with drugs.
What is the difference between a single child and a major hospital? In both cases vulnerable people were neglected by the very people who were supposed to be caring for them; the only difference is that those in the NHS Trust could hardly claim "diminished responsibility"!
So why the difference? When a single child dies those responsible are prosecuted. When a single doctor or nurse kills someone, even by accident, they are prosecuted. When there is mass killing all those responsible seem to get off scot-free. Indeed, even worse, most of the senior management have resigned, received large pay-offs and gone on to similar jobs elsewhere.
When the Herald of Free Enterprise sank in 1987 killing 193 people, there were demands that the Company Directors should be prosecuted. Following the Paddington train crash in 1999 when 31 people were killed and 520 were injured, there were similar demands. But when a NHS Trust kills more people than were killed and injured in the previous two events, there is absolute silence and total inaction.
We need action from the Police and the Crown Prosecution Service (or even the Health and Safety Executive); there is no reason why there should be one rule for the public service and another for private companies or individuals.
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