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Bill Cash MP
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Bill Cash renews call for public inquiry into Stafford Hospital - Speech in the House of Commons

Bill Cash gave the following speech in the House of Commons on 18 May 2009, renewing his call for a public inquiry into Stafford Hospital:

This is a debate about freedom of information. It is a tale of cover-ups by two closed cultures: a cover-up by the hospital and its superior organisations, and a cover-up by the Government and their subordinate public organisations. That has resulted in a pincer movement of both death and despair. My constituents and the people representing the interests of the victims and the bereaved demand justice, and they will get justice only if they have a proper inquiry under the Inquiries Act 2005 because that will call for evidence on oath, and have compulsion of witnesses and proper legal protection for whistleblowers, which is not available under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 as it is bypassed. I am saying not that the 1998 Act is bad in itself, but that it does not operate when certain people get to work on it. There are also good people at the hospital who need to be exonerated, and a public inquiry would provide for that. 
 
There is now to be a Select Committee inquiry. That will give us the opportunity to present measured evidence, which we cannot do in 10 minutes tonight. I also ask my party’s shadow Secretary of State to assure us that we would be able to have a public inquiry if and when we get into government next year, because that would be a good opportunity. I strongly suggest that the credibility of the Government is at stake—and
I must say that I dismiss with contempt the Minister’s recent trivial speech. Already, two governors have called for a public inquiry of the kind that is required and, as the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Kidney) has said, Stafford borough council was unanimous in its demand for one. 
I would like to quote from a statement from one of the nurses at this hospital. I want to read it out because it is very important. “X” and “Y” are my terms for two nurses: 
 
“I spoke to X. I explained to her the situation and asked her to relay this information to Y. Whilst she did this she kept me on the phone. I heard her tell Y that I had discovered that several patients had breached. I then heard Y tell X to tell me to lie. X came back on to the phone and told me that Y’s advice to me was to lie. I told her I was not happy to do this and explained that I had informed the clinical site manager of the breaches.” 
 
She went on to make another statement, again at a critical time. She said: “I have become increasingly frightened in my place of work,” and am “feeling more and more threatened.” 
 
She quotes one of the nurses saying that “you want to watch being in with her, a lot of people are getting fed up with her and she is going to get what’s coming to her. You want to watch your back and be careful or you’ll go down with her!” 
 
She also refers to “the cumulative effect” and says that “the net result has led me to feel quite terrified given the present context.” 
 
Then she talks about lying about the breach time and an occasion about which she said: “This incident led me to feel profoundly shocked that a senior colleague could firstly blatantly lie about a patient’s breach time, and secondly submit documentation, altered by her, in my name thereby knowingly leaving me open to disciplinary action.” 
 
The statement then contains reference to another patient and quotes that involve some effings here and there. Then she says in respect of a particular patient “I have heard” — a nurse — “state that she was going to get rid of him. Most recently following his hospital admission after taking an overdose I was present when she said ‘He should have taken a few more pills and done the job properly.’” 
 
The hon. Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb), who spoke for the Liberal Democrats, mentioned racism. The following quotes are mentioned in the statement: “‘what have you got in that ruck-sack Doctor, is it a bomb?’...‘Him with the turban’ or ‘Her with the yashmak.’...‘Him over there—Osama’s mate’”.
Things continue in the same manner. These allegations clearly have to be properly examined. 
 
I am not using the names of the people involved, for reasons that I shall come to in a minute. The Minister will not deny that he has said to me that if I have the evidence — for which people were shrieking when I raised the matter when objecting to our being prevented from having an oral statement—“Why don’t you anonymise it?”. I shall tell both him and the House why: when I did anonymise it, in a letter to the Secretary of State relating to a hospital nearby, the next thing I knew, after a considerable pause, was that the consultant in question had been suspended. Only last week, he was summoned for a Kafkaesque trial as if he needed to have a psychiatric assessment. I can tell the House that that consultant and the patient in question are constituents of mine and that consultant had saved the child’s life. I am so furious that I cannot speak about it. This is the way things are carrying on and we hear these platitudes about whistleblowers being protected under the legislation. 
 
The marvellous Public Concern at Work charity has made its criticisms, as the hon. Member for Stafford knows because we have been given the same material. The fact is that the whistleblowing policy being conducted in this particular hospital has to be reformed along the lines that we will explain later in the Select Committee — unfortunately, I have not time to go into this tonight. 
 
I am holding a paper written by another consultant, who was suspended at one and a half hours’ notice because he had had the temerity to complain about antibiotic policy — he had been with the hospital for many years. I must be careful, because I do not want to expose others to the kind of treatment that the consultant to whom I have referred has received. He was suspended with after such a short a notice period on the issue of antibiotic policy and the non-availability of nurses on consultant ward rounds. This is a national disgrace and the legislation does not protect such people properly. The reality is that the allegations that I am making need to be properly examined by the Select Committee, when we have more time to do the job. 
I move on to the question of the manner in which the Government have covered up. I mentioned, much to the Minister’s hilarity, which I thought pathetic, that Ian Kennedy — he wrote the foreword to the Bristol inquiry — subsequently became chairman of the Healthcare Commission, produced the Stafford report and came up with a different version about the value of public inquiries. That was the point I was making. Ian Kennedy had said: “A Public Inquiry cannot turn back the clock. It can, however, offer an opportunity to let all those touched by the events, in our case Bristol, be heard and to listen to others.” He had gone on to talk about the “public venting of anger, distress and frustration; it provides a public stage on which this can take place.” 
I say again that if it is good enough for Bristol, it is good enough for us. He has obviously changed his mind since he became chairman of the Healthcare Commission, and I would like to get all that on the record.
 
[Mr. Lansley: Does my hon. Friend agree that Ian Kennedy—understandably, in the case of Stafford—was defending the Healthcare Commission, not least because when the Healthcare Commission undertook an investigation it would like not to feel that a precedent had been set that meant that it could be second guessed by a call for a public inquiry? Does my hon. Friend accept that I do not see this necessarily as setting a precedent? We did not ask for an inquiry after Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells, nor would we set out to do so in other cases. The evidence in this case seems to point to such a wide range of unresolved issues that it demands that we go down that path.]
 
I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend, and so does the Royal College of Nursing, which said that the focus on achieving financial targets at Mid Staffordshire was at the expense of appropriate and safe staffing levels and talked about cuts in the number of nurses.
 
As I said, the real question is also one of a Government cover-up. It has caused me a lot of difficulty to get some of these minutes, but there is no doubt that the minutes of the various strategic health authorities—I have them all, so I shall be able to go into them in due course, although not tonight—show a direct paper trail from the decisions that were made when David Nicholson was chairman of certain of these authorities that continued all the way through under the aegis of the right hon. Member for Leicester, West (Ms Hewitt) and also under that of the present Secretary of State. They are all about targets, finance and matters of that kind. Also involved is Mr. Bill Moyes. There is a conflict of interest for the university of Birmingham, which was commissioned by the West Midlands strategic health authority, and a conflict of interest for Mrs. Cynthia Bower, who is now chief executive of the Care Quality Commission.
 
The problem that troubles me is the continual conflicts of interest. For example, the University of Birmingham study was funded by the SHA, which set up the steering committee to guide the study. The people who were on the study that led to the analysis of the mortality rates in Mid Staffordshire included the medical director of the SHA and people from the trusts, including the information manager of the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust. That is a blatant example of conflict of interest.
 
In conclusion, although there is much more information that I would like to get out, I shall simply say that we should consider the opening remarks and the constant references to finance, finance, finance in the Mid Staffordshire challenge-to-challenge board meeting. Bill Moyes, now of Monitor, who gave this trust status, said in the vital board-to-board meeting on 5 December 2007 that “questioning would concentrate on the financial viability and governance of the Trust.” 
 
It is a disgrace.
 

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