Horrible toll in Shrewsbury is a symptom of a public sector that is unheard of

AAt least 200 babies born to the Shrewsbury and Telford NHS Trust could have survived if they had been better cared for, including 131 who were stillborn and 70 who died shortly after birth. Nine Mao deaths have been avoided. Tragically poor maternity care has resulted in the theft of a lifetime. Many more were left with a lifelong disability, their parents struggling against adversity for the care and support they needed for the rest of their lives. The Okenden investigation, published last week, found that midwives and doctors blamed mothers for the deaths and injuries, despite children being forcibly removed from their mothers by force and doctors leaving women screaming in agony for hours on end. Their kids

It is sad enough that a child has died as a result of clinical failure. But absolutely unforgivable that it happened again, and again, and again, all the time frustrated and grieving parents have spent more than a decade fighting the system for truth.

One of the worst NHS scandals from the 1970s to the present day has a lot to offer. I wrote about why maternity care was particularly risky for such horrific cultures, where child mortality investigations have been completed or are ongoing at other NHS trusts. Women are less likely to believe when they say they are in pain, the “normal birth” ideology that has infected some parts of the midwifery profession – the misconception that untreated “natural” births are always the best – combined with the realization that the risk of childbirth Not only is it a cross for women to carry but also something that should be accepted without their complaint, making maternity services particularly unnecessarily life-threatening.

But analysis can’t stop there. There are many common strands, including other examples of systemic negligence in healthcare, such as the Mid-Staffs scandal, where patients were subjected to dangerously horrific standards of care in the 2000s and further into other parts of the public sector. People have been terrorized by the state, who cannot answer for what has happened to them, leave the assurance to others that it will not happen again, have to sacrifice their lives to establish the truth or give it up. From health to education to policing, weak leadership and bad culture become more self-sufficient as whistleblowers are driven out and good professionals follow.

The political response is always “never again”, yet it is a blind spot for both sides of the political spectrum because these experiences do not fit any great political narrative. Proper obsession with waste disposal and improving efficiency in the public service; For the left, the story often stops and begins with the question of wealth.

Of course, more money is vital. There are some people who put forward a ridiculous narrative that we spend too much on our healthcare, even though we have invested significantly less per capita in the last decade than in comparative countries like Germany and France. We actually spend very little, keeping the NHS less staffed and providing truly world-class care without up-to-date equipment.

But many of these child deaths – and the mid-staff scandal – occurred during the Labor Fund Rise. It is easier for the left to get rid of the lazy rule of “public sector is bad, private sector is good”; There are plenty of examples where this is horrible and systematically wrong, such as private equity companies pocketing huge profits by providing low quality care to some of the most vulnerable children. But the failure of countless public sectors shows that the left can be misguided by this doctrine.

Where leftists who compare “public sector” to “good” err in their analysis of power: they compare it to personal gain and leave it there. But the truth is that nurses, doctors, teachers and police officers can wield immense power over people’s lives, often with positive effects, but sometimes with terrible consequences. Just ask the survivors of child sexual abuse in Rotherham, where police prejudice and failure – police officers believed that children under the age of 11 could have sex with men three times their age – had their grooming gang abusers to abuse working girls. Kept free. These officers did not believe they deserved the same protection as their own daughters. Or the metropolitan police stop and search black youths for no apparent reason. Or adults failing as children by the horrific state education they received in the 1970s and 80s, when the soft orthodoxy of low expectations spread to many schools.

At the heart of a strand of labor public service reform was this insight: more money, but more accountability. Of course, the targets were blunt, so with unintended consequences, the inspection systems were complex and in need of improvement. It took so long to find out about the mid-staff and Shrewsbury and Telford – it was conservative, not labor, the health secretaries finally ordered them – shows how incomplete this reform agenda was. But it was driven by the right insights: the shamelessness of estimating the collective interests of public sector professionals is always lined up with patients or students. See the British Medical Association is losing public confidence in the recommendations of expert immunologists regarding the gap between doses of the covid vaccine due to the demands of their own members or the position of the National Education Union in favor of offset visits and complete cancellation of league tables. (The two visits I made as a former school governor were funny contrasts, but part of a school system and parcels that put children first.)

The fact is that politicians of all stripes have put too much emphasis on Big-Bang structural reforms – spending huge sums of money on restructuring the health and education systems – instead of challenging failed institutions to do what seems so good: closing ranks and Protect themselves. There are no easy shortcuts to “never again”. It involves hard and obscene work to improve leadership and culture in the worst pockets of the public sector, from dangerous maternity services to corrupt police forces. And never forget that power without accountability corrupts certain individuals and therefore institutions. Public or private: There is no resistance anywhere.

Sonia Sodha is an Observer columnist

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