Two reports have been published today into the failings of state organisations.
The first is into the failings of the NHS maternity care at Morecambe Bay Hospital which led to the needless deaths of a number of babies.
The second is into the failings of Oxfordshire County Council officials and the Thames Valley police who refused to take child sex abuse cases seriously.
In the first case, according to the Telegraph, the inquiry found that a band of midwives, who dubbed themselves the “Musketeers”, failed to call doctors when they were needed, in their determination that women should have a “natural birth” and then colluded to cover up critical blunders. In spite of some 19 deaths, of which 12 should not have occurred with the right care, no one has been prosecuted or struck off, although six cases are due to be heard by Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) later this year. One would have thought that colluding to conceal or give false evidence at an inquest was perversion of the course of justice, a criminal matter.
But even more appalling in many ways was the failure of those at the top of the NHS Trust to be aware that anything was wrong, and that the Care Quality Commission along with various other Authorities were either unaware of the situation or failed to take any action.
In the second case, also reported in the Telegraph, both the Police and Social Workers ignored the grooming of an estimated 370 girls in the Oxford area over the past 16 years. The police in some instances took the view that the victims were “prostituting themselves” and “deliberately” putting themselves at risk, whilst the Social Workers took the view that they should be "non-judgemental" about the girls' activities. Again there seems to be failings at the top of both the Police and the Oxfordshire County Council in that they failed to take any action. Whilst seven men have been jailed for child sex offences, there does not seem to have been any disciplinary action taken against either the individual policemen or council officials who ignored the problem. Why not prosecutions for failure of duty in a public office?
The thing that I can't understand is how those at the top of the NHS Trust, the Oxfordshire County Council and the Thames Valley Police can get away with saying "I didn't know" or "Nobody told me" that these things were taking place. Surely it is their job to know.
Now I worked as an Electrical Engineer, and our Chief Engineer made it very clear that he expected to be told about anything that might result in him having to answer questions from either the media or any of the Board members. He had maybe a hundred or more projects under his control, some outside the UK, and he expected all the project engineers to keep him fully informed of any aspect of the project which might give rise to any enquiries. Woe betide any project engineer who hadn't ensured that he had information about a problem should he find out about the problem from any other source. This is what he was paid for, controlling the projects, being aware of any problems and if necessary taking steps to correct the situation. Because of this, all the project engineers took a similar approach. I wanted to know from my staff immediately there were any problems in order that I could both inform the boss of the situation and tell him what was being done.
This was project management, what we were being paid to do, and it was no good any of us saying "Nobody told me", it just wouldn't wash. So why do those at the top of Social Services, the Police and County Councils get away with "I didn't know what was going on". Surely that is their job, a job for which they are very highly paid, a job where it should be their duty to know what is going on. The head of the NHS Trust should have known what was going on at the Morecambe Bay Hospital because the Head of the Hospital should have told him. The head of Oxfordshire County Council should have known what was happening because the head of the Child Protection Services should have told him. The Chief Constable should have known what was going on because the various Chief Superintendents should have told her.
It's time the Government ensured that action was taken against those at the top in these cases; those at the top have failed all those mothers whose babies died and all those vulnerable girls who were groomed and abused. An apology is simply not enough; they should accept full blame and resign; if they are unwilling to do so they should be subjected to disciplinary proceedings and hopefully be fired. We've had more than enough enquiries, we want action.
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