Norman Lamb, Newsnight and Jeremy Paxman’s bedpan

Liberal Democrat Health Minister Norman Lamb wrote about the Government’s response to the Francis Report for this site yesterday. Later he was interviewed by Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight. Paxman started by asking how long it would take before the NHS is fit for purpose.

Norman replied:

We have to recognise that a lot of fantastic work goes on in the NHS

Most people who work in health and care do so because they want to care for people

We shouldn’t denigrate NHS because of what’s happened in this one report, but anyone who cares passionately about the NHS has to face up the failings and recognise there are significant challenges to be taken seriously. It will take time.

Staffing levels

Challenged on whether there were sufficient nurses in the NHS:

There will be  some hospitals who have made poor decisions about the levels of staffing in their hospitals. That’s why it’s so important that they are held to account. That’s why it’s so important to introduce the Chief Inspector of Hospitals who can identify where these bad decisions have been made and require change.

Duty of candour

Norman confirmed that an organisation failing to admit to mistakes will be breaking the criminal law.

It will apply to the organisation and we’ve brought in Don Berwick, probably the world’s leading expert on patient safety to report back to us on how we achieve a culture of zero harm in our health service.  Let’s wait for what he says before we decide whether to apply it to individuals.

When staff fail…

How many staff would have been found wanting in Mid Staffordshire, asked Paxman

The failings identified in MS should mean in my view that in circumstances such as that that the managers responsible should not be able to retain their jobs and should not work in the NHS again. That’s why we are introducing a barring scheme for senior managers who have been identified as being responsible for serious failings of care.

Minsters on the wards

The interview ended with this exchange on Ministers and civil servants doing frontline work on the wards.

JP: You also say that, as part of coming to understand NHS, senior civil servants and minsters will be doing frontline work in the NHS. Does that mean there are some viewers watching tonight who might find you emptying their bedpan.

NL: That might be a scary prospect, Jeremy, and, of course I will work. It’s really important to do this not in a blaze of publicity but for ministers and civil servants to experience what it’s like on the front line. I will do it straight away. I’m not delaying on this. It’s the right thing to do.

JP: So there could be viewers who could have you emptying your bedpan?

NL: There could be Jeremy, how would you feel about that?

JP: I’d be decidedly in two minds, I think.

NL: I think I could manage to empty your bedpan

JP: Thanks very much. I’ll look forward to that.

NL: It’s a pleasure.

On a serious note, I do wonder, though, whether managers would allow ministers to see what goes on in a chronically understaffed ward, where nurses are under constant pressure to admit more parents they have neither the room nor the staff to cope with. If this exercise is to mean anything, surely they should ask the local nursing staff where they should go to see the problems at their worst.

You can see the whole interview here.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Paul Reynolds 30th Mar '13 - 8:30am

    Thanks Caron. This article is interesting in that our Minister in question seems to wish to put his fear of criticising the NHS ahead of the public interest. i urgs Norman to be less fearful and more boldly pursue the public interest rather than cow tow to supplier interests – and that means accepting the vast scale of the problem rather than going down the ‘bad aple’ route. Every summer the local radical socialist Labour MP took a temporary job at Mid Staffs hospiral. When I was a PPC some of my ‘constituents’ family members attended. the hospital. They took the view after months of complaining that ‘what hope is there when the local MP has his experience there on his website and describes the hospital in gushing, glowing terms’. Indeed they were right. There on the local MPs website was fullsome praise in almost Soviet style. There ars many hospitals in the UK also involved in apparent cover-ups as a substitute for improving services
    The Labour party is powerless and its policy dominated by health unions. The Tories’ approach is dominated by private producer interests. What hope is there indeed for the public interest to prevail ?

  • Paul Reynolds 30th Mar '13 - 11:18am

    With ref to the above, it should be remembered. that the UK huge health sector unions have a specific political strategy of persuading the British public to resist reform on the basis that any change will result in a system like the US and then exaggerate how bad the US system is. This is to prevent the British public from comparing the UK NHS with health systems in other countries where services are free at the point of care. … such as Japan, Singapore, France, Sweden Germany or Netherlands. The key problem with the Tories reforms however is that the UK private health sector is very patchy and wildly exploitative in its charges. There is also a lot of corruptoon and appalling conflicts of interest in NHS contracting. This does not augur well for a future system based on opaque contracting with the private sector.

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