Coffee House

Why David Nicholson must go

1 March 2013

1:45 PM

1 March 2013

1:45 PM

As the Mid-Staffs tragedy unfurls, it becomes more and more apparent that contrary to the insistence of former Labour Ministers and Prime Ministers, this was not an isolated case, but an appalling example of problems evident throughout the NHS.

Indeed, back in 2008, the then Labour Government received reports from respected international health consultants warning of a culture of fear and compliance within the NHS; a place where the emphasis was on ‘hitting the targets, but missing the point’ and patient safety came second to presenting a set of statistics suitable for dispatch-box delivery.

Ironically, these reports had been commissioned to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the NHS, but far from presenting something to celebrate, the reports laid bare the same problems existing across the NHS that Francis described in his report on Mid Staffs, five years later.

Instead of publishing and acting upon these reports, the then Labour Government and the Department of Health buried the alarming truth about the state of the NHS. Even the Health Select Committee weren’t allowed to see them. They were only revealed two years later through a freedom of information request from Policy Exchange.


To give some idea about the effect the burying of these damning reports had on patients, consider this: in the time between the presentation of these reports to Ministers, and the General Election in 2010, the number of excess deaths recorded across the 15 Trusts now under investigation by Sir Bruce Keogh was approximately 2,800. If urgent and effective action had been taken, at the very least, some of these lives might have been saved.

But despite talk of transparency and accountability, there seems no sign of consequences for those responsible for patient safety. In any other organisation where errors and shoddy practice had cost thousands of lives, those in charge would be held to account.

I have tabled an Early Day Motion calling for the man who was in charge of the Strategic Health Authority overseeing Mid Staffs and who was later running the NHS when the 2008 damning reports were buried, to be held to account – and support for it is building amongst MPs. If responsibility in the NHS is to mean anything at all, David Nicholson must go.

But just as it is false to claim that the problem is a one-off in Mid-Staffs, when it is an NHS-wide issue, it would also be a mistake to assume that calls for accountability are just about one man. It is not. The EDM is about making a stand against an entire culture, and calling to account all those — former Ministers, officials, medics and highly paid managers, who were negligent in their duty to protect patient safety.

Words are cheap and don’t bring loved-ones back to their bereaved families. The hackneyed political phrase ‘learning lessons’ must result in action and taking responsibility. Parliament and the public should expect no less, if we are to safeguard and protect those elements of the NHS that rightly make us proud: those many dedicated medics and nurses, (many of whom were suppressed in their whistle-blowing efforts to protect their patients) and care available regardless of ability to pay. We owe it to those who died to take make sure this tragedy transforms our health-system culture. Lives, quite literally, depend on it.

Charlotte Leslie is the MP for Bristol North West

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Show comments
  • Stroudy

    Sir David Nicholson must be the first of many to lose their jobs. I was disgusted to hear the PM and the Health Secretary express confidence in Sir David.

  • Tom Tom

    The gagging orders came in during the 1980s.

  • John_Page

    How did Charlotte rate David Cameron’s answer to her at PMQ’s?

  • 2trueblue

    Certainly he must be ousted using everything against him. It does not absolve the number of people, nurses, doctors, managers, etc. who were not doing their job.

    What must also follow is the large number of staff who did not do their job in caring for the huge number of patients in their care. How can you miss the fact that someone needs washing, bed change, feeding, hydrating, and all the basic things that constitute care. These are not skills that are abnormally difficult to learn and put into play. In fact they are things we all know and practise everyday for those around us, especially when they are unwell.

    These were not just one off events, it was long term and systemic neglect. It is all too easy to talk about just those at the top. The whole lot of them are responsible. Evil thrives when good men do nothing, comes to mind. The thousands did not die from just a days neglect, it was day after day.

    How many of us as patients, visitors in hospitals see a number of nurses gathered around desks chatting whilst bells go unanswered? They are not discussing patients just chatting to their mates.

  • CNHS North East

    ‎10 Trusts are now showing red. 10 more reasons for Nicholson to go

    Countess of Chester Hospital NHS FT, Mid Cheshire Hospitals NHS FT, Wirral University Teaching Hospital NHS FT, North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS FT, Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS FT, Blackpool, Fylde & Wyre Hospitals NHS FT, Northumbria Healthcare NHS FT, Northern Lincolnshire and Goole, Barnsley Hospital NHS FT and Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals NHS FT.
    Enc B – Quality Report nhs 2.doc
    Preview · Download

  • jose garcia

    resigning should be the last of his worries……serial manslaughter ……or murder charges should have happened already…….I HOPE I DONT DIE IN AN NHS HOSPITAL

  • John Smith

    He will not go, if he goes he drags Burnham, Hewitt & Johnson down with him.
    – With war criminal Tony Blair not far behind.
    – Never underestimate Common Purpose . . .

  • kyalami

    There is a tragic assumption, both among elected officials and civil servants that no-one needs to resign or be sacked any more. If Cameron is serious about reforming government, this must change.

  • Victor Southern

    Why don’t we do as we always do in these cases – sack him with a golden handshake of a few millions. Then appoint him to some lucrative health quangos.

  • gelert

    But Sir Dave has a big fan and friend in Dave; who has learned nothing from the Eastleigh result.

  • eyeswideopen

    Perhaps the reason for not sacking him is that they do not know how to do it without paying out a huge ‘compensation’ sum, as no payment would probably result in a costly legal case. He unfortunately has them by the short and curlies, unless they can bring a criminal case.

  • In2minds

    “Bristol North West” – Why are the local Staffs MPs not involved?

  • Helga Warzecha

    “Words are cheap and don’t bring loved-ones back to their bereaved families.” Actions are needed to get an accountable NHS. The NHS desperately needs an independent complaints system – the system in place now is totally unfit for purpose and never resolves any problems. The NHS desperately needs to show patients and their relatives that it cares – the total lack of concern for the welfare of those that have died and their families is what really hurts.

  • Bluesman

    “If responsibility in the NHS is to mean anything at all, David Nicholson must go.”

    No Citizen Leslie, he must be held to account (along with so many others) before a properly constituted criminal court.

    “The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 is a
    landmark in law. For the first time, companies and organisations can be
    found guilty of corporate manslaughter as a result of serious
    management failures resulting in a gross breach of a duty of care.” – Source HSE

    If he is found to at fault he must be punished in a manner commensurate with the crime including imprisonment, recovery of assets to compensate the victims of the families, stripping of honours, loss of pension and the everlasting contempt of society. As should any who abetted this heinous act of violent contempt for the public.

    • Russell

      And still labour MP’s and ex Health Ministers who were in charge while all this happened promote scare stories about what the Tories are doing to the NHS, Labour are lower than the lowest as far as incompetence, decency and hypocrisy and should similarly be held to account, instead of the families of those Killed seeing their smirking faces on our TV screens every day..

      • realfish

        Yes. Dianne Abbott being prominent amongst them. She plays her part in building a firewall around the NHS, one that paints criticism of it as unpatriotic and disloyal.

        A few years back, on BBC QT, she said that the NHS was the ‘Third rail of British politics – touch it and you’re dead.’ With those words she denies people a health service that they are entitled to. She inhibits change in an organisation that is clearly not fit for purpose. She is as culpable as her Labour colleagues, on whose watch these dreadful deaths occurred

        As ever, the BBC play their part. For the second time in as many months Midlands Today, yesterday, pulled someone in front of the cameras who had experienced ‘excellent treatment’ at Stafford. Well goody, raise the bunting, crack open the champers! That’s the ‘effin’ day job, that’s what they were supposed to be doing. I can’t help but feel that these attempts at balance are both ‘on-message’ and designed to minimise and outweigh the terrible events at that place.

        I live in the Stafford catchment area and have twice been a visitor to the hospital. I can sum up my feelings of the place in one word – oppressive. The news that it is likely to go into administration may be the change that is needed, but rather than hand it over to another Trust, the SoS should call Circle Health and ask it to repeat the job that they are doing as Hinchingbrook.

        People deserve better, not dogma.

    • Colonel Mustard

      “The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 is a
      landmark in law. For the first time, companies and organisations can be
      found guilty of corporate manslaughter as a result of serious
      management failures resulting in a gross breach of a duty of care.”

      Organisations like the Labour party.

  • The Laughing Cavalier

    This shameless apparatchik won’t go of his own accord. He must be sacked with the minimum payment in lieu of notice.

    • fitz fitzgerald

      … exactly : let the stalinist sue for his loot …

  • William Haworth

    EVERYONE I know has an NHS horror story, and had them from well before Dave got into No. 10. I guess that, for some reason, our MP’s don’t bother to use the NHS, or don’t bother to listen to their constituents.

  • Rhoda Klapp

    Not only must he go, but he ought not to get a fat payoff.