Corporate Manslaughter in the NHS

We haven’t properly sorted this one out, have we? Whenever members of the public lose their lives and it emerges that managers have been cutting costs at the expense of safety, we demand action. And that action never seems to be equal to the “crime” as we see it. It’s usually just a fine on the company concerned so modest it doesn’t even affect management bonuses, however egregious the failing, however obvious the dangers and however dire the warnings that were ignored. I’m not aware of anyone ever being jailed.

Such is the case for Linda O’Boyle. She has now died as the inevitable and predicted consequence of the NHS withdrawing free treatment. It was withdrawn because she voluntarily paid for some additional medication that was not available free of charge on the NHS. As such, she became classified as a “private patient” and therefore not entitled to further free treatment. She could not afford to continue at her own expense the treatment they had been providing, so the NHS left her to die.

Incredibly there is even a rationale for all this. According to Health Secretary Alan Johnson, allowing patients to supplement treatment at their own expense will create a two-tier NHS, with preferential treatment going to those patients who can afford the extra medication. He would rather see people dead than allow a two-tier NHS. Class hatred doesn’t come any more ugly than this.

According to the NHS, “It is explained to the patient that they can either have their treatment under the NHS or privately, but not both in parallel.” So if I need to be admitted to hospital, will I be refused treatment because I have been paying for my own Hay Fever tablets? No, of course not, that’s a silly question. But why is it a silly question? No, seriously? Where is this ultra-fine line? Why is there even a line in the first place? Private patients, like parents who send their children to private schools, are already paying double. First for the “free” services they are not taking advantage of, and secondly for the private services they are paying for instead.

Mrs O’Boyle was being denied treatment she was entitled to and to which she had been contributing all her working life, ironically in the NHS itself. How perverse is that? It is more than perverse. It is corporate manslaughter. The NHS is as guilty as any other business that takes cost-saving measures that results in someone’s death. That was the rationale behind Dr Shipman, who would terminate any old ladies whom he judged were a nuisance and costing the NHS more money than they were worth. He would be so proud of the lessons New Labour have learned from him.

Original Telegraph report here.