The Francis Report this week is a great disappointment. It is woolly and over-long, full of jargon and euphemisms and forgettable recommendations. It is a waste of two years. But if you go back to Mr Francis’s first report, in 2010, you are sharply reminded of exactly what all this is about. It has 13 pages on “continence and bladder and bowel care” alone. These include stories about an old man forced to stay on a commode for 55 minutes wearing only a pyjama top, about a woman whose legs were “red raw” because of the effect of her uncleaned faeces, about piles of soiled sheets left at the end of beds, and of bowls full of vomit ditto. A woman arrived at 10am to find her 96-year-old mother-in-law “completely naked… and covered with faeces… It was in her hair, her nails, her hands and on all the cot sides… it was literally everywhere and it was dried.” One nice bureaucratic touch: another woman who found her mother with faeces under her nails asked for them to be cut, but was told that it was “not in the nurses’ remit to cut patients’ nails” Charles Moore sets out the horrifying facts in the Mid Staffordshire hospitals disaster.
Meanwhile the voice of the left, Polly Toynbee, makes the excuses, seemingly regarding the deaths of 1200 patients over three years as acceptable: Much indignation this week has fixed on nurses: Cameron used the moment to call for performance-related pay. "Bring back Matron!" some cried, again, imagining some ubiquitous Hattie Jacques. Surely, MPs said, running a ward is easy? It's not rocket science for nice nurses to care kindly, keep people clean and out of pain, feed the frail and answer bedside buzzers? But it's not easy at all. It requires good functioning of a highly complex well-oiled machine..