On our front page today, we show images that speak louder than words about the life-threatening crisis gripping the overstretched NHS out-of-hours number.
Taken at the country’s worst-performing 111 service, where fatal errors were made in the case of baby William Mead, they show an exhausted paramedic and a call-handler slumped asleep at their posts.
Meanwhile, a whistleblower reveals the full extent of the blunders that led to the death of 12-month-old William, a victim of a ‘tick-box’ culture in which poorly trained staff failed to spot telltale signs of sepsis.
Worn out: A woman paramedic asleep at the Dorset 111 centre (left) and her call handler colleague (right), who is not the member of staff involved in the William Mead case
Shockingly, former manager Sarah Hayes reveals that ‘concerns had been repeatedly raised’ about the call-handler involved, whose interruptions and hurried manner in dealing with the case were criticised in a report we revealed last month.
This is despite assurances to William’s parents that ‘no concerns’ had been raised about the staff member. Even more disturbingly, he is still taking calls – and helping with training.
In other hushed-up incidents, Miss Hayes tells how call-handlers risked the life of a child and caused disfigurement, while she herself was left with no nurse or paramedic to cover a population of 400,000.
It is thanks only to brave people like her that the public ever hears of such cases. Yet as doctors and safety campaigners complained last week, the NHS treats whistleblowers abominably, sacking those who dare to speak out while never punishing managers who mistreat them.
Such is the poisonous legacy of Lord Leveson, whose advice that police whistleblowers should raise their concerns internally has been enthusiastically embraced by the health service.
How can we hope for reform until the Government makes good its pledge to protect those who reveal what’s wrong?
The NHS is a massive organisation with infrastructure and workforce. It needs its own independent police force rather like the Transport Police. So many deaths within it but no one really cares. Executives employ their own “investigators” at our expense to cover up and protect them (check out the job descriptions for these roles). The NHS management Mafia should go to prison for failures where someone has suffered or died, or where whistleblowers have been targeted. Most people do not know how powerful and thoroughly rotten many of these Executives actually are. It’s time some were sent to prison and their huge wealth confiscated for their crimes against the people.