I'm trying to think of professions where killing people wins you promotion, a higher salary and a bigger pension. Apart from the military, the only one I can think of is the National Health Service. Lest you think this is a sick joke, consider the case of Cynthia Bower.
This lovely, talented lady first proved her mettle as chief executive of the strategic health authority NHS West Midlands, whose responsibilities included Mid-Staffordshire hospital. When evidence emerged that vast numbers of patients – possibly as many as 1,200 – were dying there from neglect and shoddy care, Ms Bower's health authority dismissed it as a statistical blip. Later, though, Ms Bower was big enough to admit that the situation at Stafford "wasn't on my radar."
No doubt she had more important things to do, like loading up on Krispy Kreme donuts. These were one of the perks of Ms Bower's next job, to which she was promoted as a reward for her tremendous success at NHS West Midlands. As head of the newly created (by Labour) quango the Care Quality Commission (CQC) Ms Bower presided over a multi-million splurge:
Weeks later it emerged that the regulator had spent millions of pounds on plush refurbishments, staff junkets, Raymond Blanc meals and, staggeringly, more than £300 on Krispy Kreme doughnuts.
Unfortunately, all the time gorging themselves meant there was precious little space left to deal with trivia like stopping patients at other hospitals dying horribly from neglect.
In September the CQC annual report said it carried out 15,220 inspections in the previous year. It admitted later it was only 7,368.
Up to 16 babies and two mothers are feared to have died between 2001 and 2012 because of poor care at the maternity unit at the Barrow-in-Furness hospital, part of the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay foundation trust.
Another was the Winterbourne View care home:
The shocking Winterbourne View revelations came after staff at the care home were secretly filmed by the BBC’s Panorama programme pinning down residents, slapping and taunting them. Experts described it as ‘torture’.
Later it emerged that a nurse at Winterbourne had alerted the CQC but had been ignored, forcing the regulator to admit it had made an ‘unforgiveable error of judgment’.
You might have thought that Bower would have sleepless nights worrying about these failures, about the number of deaths that might have been averted had she actually done the job she was paid up to £195,000 a year to do. But, as she revealed in an exclusive interview with Carehome.co.uk she was in fact sanguine about it all.
“I have had to take it on the chin. Anybody who runs a public agency is held up to scrutiny. I am going to be challenged and I am going to be criticised. It goes with the job. As a regulator for health and social care, people have high expectations and when public services go wrong, it is natural that we are held up to scrutiny.”
Very big of her, I'm sure we can all agree. And what, of her many achievements while head of CQC, did she consider her proudest?
“I am very proud of all that we have achieved, but particularly the Performance and Capability Review as it recognises that we have managed to bring the entire health and social care sectors under a new regulatory system. It is a regulatory system that is based on dignity, rights and care needs and it is very much a patient-centred regulatory system.”
Ah yes. "Dignity, rights and care needs." Exactly the same thing, I'm sure, that those thousand or more patients at Mid-Staffordshire hospital had on their mind as they lay mired in their blood-, faeces- and urine-stained sheets, waiting for a truculent nurse to deign to give them some water or change their foetid dressings.
So you'll be pleased to hear that after all that suffering, poor Ms Bower is now enjoying a well-earned rest on her £65,000 a year pension – which comes from a pension pot worth at least £1.35 million.
As she told Mycarehome.co.uk:
I am looking forward to relaxing for a bit. I have been working for 36 years and my 27-year-old son has told me ‘you need to put your feet up, Mum’.”
Thirty-six years! That is a long time. She's 57 now – a reverend age which, I think we can all agree, every self-respecting public sector angel like Cynthia jolly well deserves to put her feet up and let the rest of us take the strain!
Some readers may detect traces of sarcasm in the above blogpost. Indeed, they may well infer that the questions the author really wants to ask are as follows:
Why isn't this woman in prison?
Why aren't all the other people responsible also in prison?
Why do so many people still describe the NHS as the envy of the world?
Why is the Coalition ring-fencing NHS spending as though all is tickety-boo and as though as long as you keep pumping squillions of taxpayer pounds into the system all shall be well and nothing needs fixing?
What do we think would happen in the private sector to a director on whose watch more than a thousand customers died?