Is this the new name for the National Health Service ?
After the recent report on the many premature deaths at Gosport Hospital, you might well think so, at least as far as older people are concerned !
I am not going to repeat the shocking headlines that followed the publication of the report by Reverend James Jones KBE, the Chairman of the Gosport Independent Panel on the possible 650 murders of older people (the word murder is my own description, the report only describes “death” because at this point there have been no convictions at what happened at Gosport). You can see Reverend Jones’ summary in the foreword of the report by clicking on the following link. https://www.gosportpanel.independent.gov.uk/panel-report/foreword-section/foreword/
The central culprit is Dr Jane Barton – a GP working as a clinical assistant at the hospital. After the report was published, she was away on holiday in Majorca. There are also her many other accomplices who assisted with the crimes or helped bury the evidence. I will bet they would all like to be in Spain right now, it is a haven, or should that be hidy-hole, for people trying to forget their past.
It’s taken years to reach this point but the report’s conclusions are very damning. I will leave others to decide the fate of the many people involved. No doubt this will only be after many more years of re-investigation, public and private enquiries and endless belated heartfelt meaningless apologies.
However, I believe what happened at Gosport is only a headstone in a much bigger graveyard of early deaths of older people across many hospitals in the NHS. I doubt they will ever be investigated because it will be too far a bigger scandal for anyone to contemplate. I’m not talking about dignified, consensual death, where there has been the active involvement of the patient, their relatives and a compassionate doctor. Those kind of deaths have gone on quietly for many years. What I’m talking about is the callous disregard for older people’s lives in a fast-track conveyor belt of NHS express care, where doctors and nurses are rushed off their feet and constantly pressured to empty beds for the next patient. Where hospital managers are measured on patient throughput and financial efficiency rather than healthy outcomes for patients. Where regulators who should be safeguarding patients are more concerned in ticking boxes rather than making sound judgements.
There is a deeper and much more significant issue underlying this whole situation. Born out of ageism, disrespect and disregard of older people. Born out of the cost to society of people getting old. Born out of Politicians’ false promises and cowardly dishonesty over decades. Born out of a collective failure to face up to the reality and lost opportunity of an ageing population.
It need not be like this, if we all wake up and accept the there is more than enough money tied up in the property owned by the majority of older people to pay for their care in later life. Also the NHS is increasingly more capable of looking after their acute health care needs, however what they are not good at and have never been funded to do, is look after chronic long-term conditions.
If we don’t want a National DEATH Service, we need to strategically rethink how we are going to deliver a National Health Service for older people.