Health Secretary, Millionaire, Rhyming Slang and Human Lizard cross Jeremy Hunt is proposing a new crime of “Wilful Neglect” against Doctors and Nurses under the Mental Capacity act. While I am aware of the recent high-profile incidents and underperforming NHS Trusts, there are huge issues and implications for this kind of action.
Over the last twenty or so years the NHS has stopped being a service and has become a political football game with the reds and the blues constantly moving the goalposts, using underhanded tactics and moaning that the other side is in the wrong. We have an amazing health service – yes there are faults but I can almost guarantee there would be in a private system too, at least this way it is free at the point of need. It has been tinkered with so often that it doesn’t know if it is coming or going. Close units and wards, then reopen them a few years later; sell off estate only to then buy other property or ground when centralisation is not as popular; underfunded followed by throwing money at the problem; removing layers of management only to realise that layers of management are required to run the hospitals. It’s a catalogue of embarrassments.
Now with Hunt proposing this move he is further attacking the hardworking, underpaid, stressed and stretched staff on the front line. We have laws in this country in both employment and criminal that will deal with any kind of neglect – so why put forward an idea that doesn’t consider the actuality of the job and the constant randomness that human error brings? Politics. Again Mr Hunt is using this as an opportunity to make political points with the electorate on the back of the disgraceful events at Stafford Hospital. While it is always right to punish wrongdoing, this is a punishment that will push already stressed staff to the limit and could cause more issues in the long-term if not attached to other guidelines.
This measure is reactionary but one that many want to see – unless you bring it in with minimum staffing levels, better working conditions and an understanding of the job done and the high emotion involved from all sides involved it could be a very dangerous thing to have hanging over the staff involved. For too long nurses especially have been at the sharp end of all the political interference – this could cause even more to leave than are already heading for the door. Working for Public Service institutions is fast becoming a poisoned chalice that no-one wants. The frustration at not being allowed to do their jobs but instead jump through all the administrative and governmental hoops put in their way means that the patients are not the priority they should be – that is not the fault of the staff, but the fault of those in charge in government.
Perhaps we do need a new law for neglect – one that deals with the government’s treatment of public services in the UK. Then we’d have no politicians left and the work would get done properly.