Statement from Dr Louise Irvine of the National Health Action Party on Jeremy Hunt and avoidable deaths in NHS hospitals
"This comparison with the airline industry is ridiculous. We don't expect pilots to fly two planes at once, or fly without enough air crew or fuel. Or try to cram more people into fewer seats while those already in seats from a previous flight can't be moved out.
The airline industry would never let pilots fly in the kinds of overworked, stressed out, understaffed, under-provisioned state that most front line hospital staff are expected to work in nowadays.
The issue of avoidable hospital deaths is very emotive and one from which Jeremy Hunt clearly hopes to make election capital as the “patients' champion”. And while it's important to develop ways to identify avoidable hospital deaths and improve systems to reduce these, the risk is that hospitals will be blamed for problems not of their making, diverting responsibility from government decisions.
Dr Helen Hogan, lead researcher on avoidable hospital deaths, highlights inadequate monitoring and slow response to deterioration as some of the main reasons for avoidable hospital deaths. This situation is more likely to occur when sick people spend hours on A+E trolleys, unable to access hospital beds, or when many hospitals are working at dangerously high bed occupancy levels with insufficient staff as we are seeing this winter. In the week ending 1 February 8,400 people in England waited on trolleys for between 4 and 12 hours for a hospital bed. This is due to lack of A+E capacity, NHS funding restrictions, insufficient staffing levels, loss of hundreds of hospital beds, and cuts to social services leading to more delayed discharges.
So Jeremy Hunt does not have to wait until 2000 case notes are analysed. He knows at least part of the answer to reducing avoidable hospital deaths now and the task is clear: ensure the NHS is properly funded and properly staffed, and reverse hospital A+E and bed closures and cuts to social services."