Saturday, 9 February 2013

Process or people?


Surrey County Council let an old lady starve to death:

Officers from Surrey Police have begun an inquiry following the death of 81-year-old widow Gloria Foster.

She passed away at Epsom Hospital on Monday (February 4) after being found abandoned, starving and dehydrated at her home in Banstead.

Mrs Foster was left alone at the property in Chipstead Road after the Sutton-based firm that cared for her, Carefirst24, was shut down following a raid by the UK Border Agency and Metropolitan Police in January.

I don't know the details of the case so can't say whether anything criminal was done. But I have a question - was Mrs Foster killed by the process or the people?  And it's an important question because it impinges on the failings in our National Health Service as shown by the enquiries into various hospitals and hospital departments, most recently Mid Staffs NHS Trust.

If it's the process - or the system or the "culture" - then we must ask how it is that repeated reorganisations and restructures have affected our care provision. Has each revolution in NHS or Council organisation merely, in Kafka's words, resulted in "...the slime of a new bureaucracy"?

Or is it the people - should we really be asking how someone - or worse still several people - can leave an old lady without the care she needed to live for nine days? That's nine days turning up to work with the request sitting on the desk, nine days to make a phone call and arrange some care, nine days to do something so Mrs Foster can live.

Is it the people? Those altruistic nurses passing by a bed where an poorly woman lies in her own urine and faeces - was it the process, the system, the culture that made them neglect her needs? Time and time again, not just in Stafford but across the NHS and in Council care provision, we read of this neglect, this failure to do basic, civilised acts of caring.

Can we ask again - is it the process or the people?


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