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The Sunday Times knew all about the NHS scandal 7 years ago, but did nothing

Last week (10 February) the Sunday Times was at its crusading best expressing outrage at the scandal of poor care in NHS hospitals and giving all sorts of suggestions, mostly ill-informed and fatuous, for improving our hospitals.

There was a full-page article by their health correspondent called, funnily enough, “Who Cares?” Columnist Jenni Russell wrote a piece “To cure the NHS, begin by listening to the patients”. Columnist Minette Marrin chipped in with her “In my litte red book, an idea for NHS cultural revolution”. And the leader column trumpeted “Time to clean up Britannia hospital”. All very laudible stuff, you may think. But the Sunday Times knew all about the thousands of unnecessary deaths in the NHS 7 years ago and did absolutely nothing.

In February 2007, I published a book “WHO CARES? One family’s shocking story of ‘care’ in today’s NHS” by Midlands housewife Amanda Steane. Her husband was admitted to hospital for a minor operation. But following a series of terrible blunders came out a helpless cripple. Unable to walk, talk or even breathe properly, he took his own life. When Amanda tried to complain to the hospital, they denied negligence. But a whistleblowing nurse sent Amanda copies of blood tests – blood tests which the hospital denied existed – proving the hospital had been negligent.

In the book, I quoted a little-known internal NHS report estimating that around 34,000 people die unnecessarily in NHS hospitals each year and another 25,000 are unnecessarily disabled. I also gave examples of patients dying of dehydration and starvation, patients lying for hours in their own filth and patients constantly being ignored by nurses too busy chatting about who they had shagged at the weekend.

At the time, I was in contact with two Sunday Times journalists – Minette Marrin and Jon Ungoed-Thomas. Both said they were interested in doing the story, but then went cold and did nothing. I suppose they and their editors decided there wasn’t really a story there. I think from what we now know, that wasn’t a great decision.

Perhaps Minette Marrin and Jon Ungoed-Thomas would like to apologise to the families of all those who have died due to poor care in our hospitals since February 2007 for their failure to do their jobs as journalists?

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