Compassion is the real victim of ‘austerity’ ………

The NHS does not stand independently of society, it is made up of society.  From the clinicians to its patients to those who run the hospital and those who develop the policies it follows.  Can we expect compassion to flow freely inside the ward walls if it is not part of everyday life outside of those walls?

Jeremy Hunt  talking about events at Mid Staffs hospital suggests ‘the weeds of failure grow more quickly in a garden of mediocrity’, hmm…..I wonder if we might say the same of the coalition?

A more mediocre government is hard to imagine, desperately dressing up their well worn mantra of “public sector bad, private sector good” as a brave new world where health care will be transformed by further privatisation.  Of course we have seen extensive privatisation in the health and social care sector already,  however, it is debateable whether this had raised standards. It certainly did not at Winterbourne View or Hillcroft Nursing home or for those older people who receive care in their own homes from private domiciliary care agencies, with the Equalities and Human Rights Commission suggesting the care of older people in their own homes is so poor it breaches their human rights.  Yet we are told by this government time after time the only way forward is the introduction of free market mechanisms in our health and social care system.  From my personal and professional experience all this has done is fragment the ‘market’ to such an extent that abuses now go unseen as meaningful regulation is impossible.

However, worse still is the governments’ inability to understand the problem is much more complex and deeper rooted than a simple dichotomy of public sector bad, private sector good.  It goes to the very heart of society and what we believe in, what we value.

Following the Francis Report there has been much talk of the role of leadership in the NHS, rightly so, however, the government appear either unaware or even indifferent to their role as leaders in society.  Leaders determine a culture within an organisation, the same could be argued of a country.  Currently this government is busy ensuring the nation turns inward on its self, with one group blaming another for all manner of ills.  Compassion has been the real victim of ‘austerity’.  Why? Just consider how the failure of an under-regulated financial sector has been transformed into a ‘witch hunt’ against anyone in receipt of ‘welfare’. So the government develop policy based on a stereotype of the most marginalised to address the problems caused by those most powerful.  Society is losing its compassion for others, seemingly too ready to believe government rhetoric of a world where everyone is either a’ skiver or a striver’.

The NHS does not stand independently of society, it is made up of society.  From the clinicians to its patients to those who run the hospital and those who develop the policies it follows.  Can we expect compassion to flow freely inside the ward walls if it is not part of everyday life outside of those walls?

 

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About digalpin

I gained my social work qualification from the University of Southampton and worked for 14 years in mental health, disability and older people services. I am currently a senior lecturer in post-qualifying social work at Bournemouth University and am conducting research on government and societal attitudes and responses to the mistreatment of older people in health and social care provision for my doctorate. My views are my own.

2 thoughts on “Compassion is the real victim of ‘austerity’ ………

  1. The free market model doesn’t naturally fit care and compassion. Essentially care and compassion mean time and patience (given the highest cost of training care staff is time as well) and time IS money. So the real challenge is to ensure that money follows quality. There are many ways to do this, in social care especially customer satisfaction has to be central, so companies have to ensure focus is on spending to make lives better, rather than saving to increase profits. The CQC have a role to ensure the company can still operate and is doing safely but the local authority can focus on satisfaction and increase money paid to placements with higher satisfaction. This would promote innovative care in small companies and help them to grow and compete, and encourage large companies to spend. Companies with no gage of satisfaction get on minimal money…just one idea… Business works in a darwinian way on money, manipulate the payment to make immediate impacts on industry standards?

  2. Thanks for commenting Alex. Some good ideas, we certainly need to see some change. Even some recognition of the social value compassion contributes to wider society would make a difference. Thanks again, it is always good to hear others views and opinions.

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