Search This Blog

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

The NHS, Whistle-Blowing, and Gagging Clauses

The NHS is going through yet another crisis. This time it concerns the care patients are receiving, especially when they are in hospital. The crisis at the North Staffordshire Hospital NHS Trust has now broadened into an issue of whether NHS staff are allowed to 'blow the whistle' on poor care practices, or whether the NHS bureaucracy is preventing or subverting this.

The concern about the situation is to be welcomed. Clearly, the crisis is focused on the 'care' provided by hospitals, and not about the 'treatment' given to hospital patients. But any death, regardless of its cause is a matter of concern, and should be investigated.

Yet, surely, it should be a matter of concern for the NHS bureaucracy too. So why do NHS staff find it so difficult to blow the whistle? Why do they fear doing so? Why does the NHS seek to prevent whistle-blowers from speaking up? Why do they offer concerned staff large financial settlements, allied to gagging clauses?

Why, in other words, should the NHS, and indeed the Conventional Medical Establishment, want to keep secret from us what is going on within our hospitals, and our health services?

What the critics of the NHS need to understand is that there is good reason for the secrecy. The NHS is a bureaucracy cloaked in secrecy. The drug-based treatment that dominates the NHS is shrouded in secrecy. The survival of the entire system of medicine, on which the NHS is now totally dependent, depends on secrecy.

We are not supposed to know what is going on! We are not allowed to know that conventional drug-based medicine is failing. We are not supposed to know that our hospitals are killing thousands of patients every year. We are not allowed to know that the pharmaceutical drugs we are given make us unhealthy, cause disease, and can actually kill us.

So why is the focus of this crisis on the care given to patients, and not their treatment? The issue here is what the relatives can see, and understand. Their patient-relative is unhappy. Their patient-relative is not given drink. Their patient-relative is not being fed. Their patient-relative is not being toileted. Their patient-relative is not responding to treatment. Their patient-relative is declining, and dying.

We can all see this, and understand that bad care is a failure. But the adverse impact of medical treatment is not so well understood. Our confidence in the medical profession, and the medicine they give us, remains solid. We don't believe, and we have never been told, that doctors might give us drugs that actually make patients sicker rather than better! Such an understanding is outside the experience and comprehension of most people. We have all been brought up to believe in the wonders of modern, 'scientific' medicine.

So, we complain about what we know. Our relative is not receiving proper care. And as a result it is the nursing staff, too busy with paperwork we are told, who bear the brunt of our disapproval.

Yet, spare a thought for those whose task it is to care for patients whilst in hospital, especially in units where residents are not getting better, where, day-by-day, they witness the decline into chronic illness, and the death of patients.

* If a medical system is failing, if patients do not receive effective treatment, they will decline and die - especially weak, frail and older patients.

* If a medical system is providing drugs that worsens rather than improve the health of patients, staff who witness this decline must be faced with a harrowing and depressing daily experience.

* If hospitals are constantly full, with people on long waiting-lists for admission, when 'turn-over and 'hot-bedding' is the order of the day, everyday, there is no respite from the daily pressures, and little reward in seeing patients getting noticeably better.

*  If hospitals are such dangerous places, not least because of antibiotic-caused 'superbugs', and the dangers of passing on dangerous infections between patients (which ConMed cannot treat), where getting patients out of hospital becomes an important objective, what confidence can this give to staff that they are doing something worthwhile, or positive.

In these, and no doubt in many other ways, the outcome of conventional medical treatment, so often negative, is intimately connected with the morale of NHS staff, and therefore the quality of care they are able to provide to patients.

This is not offered as an 'excuse' for bad caring practices within hospitals, but it is, at least in part, an important reason for it.

So what about the NHS bureaucracy? Why have they been so secretive about 'care' issues? Why have they made whistle-blowing so difficult within hospitals?  Why have they been prepared to pay-off key staff who are critical with lucrative deals that gags them from saying what they ought to be telling us?

This has probably arisen because the first duty of the Conventional Medical Establishment has been to defend the failures of a drug-based medical system on which they have become dependent. For decades, the NHS has been giving patients drugs that have failed, either by being ineffective, by causing disease, or by killing patients. And as each successive drug has been withdrawn or banned, the NHS Establishment has had to respond, and they have done so either by ignoring the issue, downplaying it, or when necessary by denying and seeking to suppress the information from getting to the general public.

So, Over the years, secrecy has become second-nature to the conventional medical establishment, so it has become part of its modus-operandi - part and parcel buffering a failing medical system. Secrecy within the NHS has become a strategy for survival - and it continues to be so.

The NHS will rarely volunteer information about its failings. It will not accept or admit the failures of Big Pharma drugs - at least, not until such time as it is no longer possible to deny them. There are too many powerful vested interests, too much status and privilege at stake, to be open with patients about the nature of their treatment.

The Establishment, and the vested interests on which it is based, have become more important than patients!