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BL Student February - Anthony Warrens column

Tuesday 26 February 2013

Nobody can fail to be aware of the recent publication of the Francis Report.  This documents the lamentable failure to provide adequate care for patients at Stafford Hospital.  The report pulls no punches criticising everyone from those providing clinical care, through the management of the hospital to the extensive regulatory bodies who were meant to prevent things like this happening.  It makes truly grim reading.

As medical students, you are rightly focused on the business of making diagnoses, dividing management plans for patients and providing them with joined-up holistic care as fellow human beings.  It is too early for you to get too involved in the details of the processes of healthcare delivery and its supervision.  There will be time enough for that!  So there are probably better ways for you to spend your time that to wade through the 160+ pages that constitute the ‘Executive Summary’ or committing to memory the 290 recommendations.  

There is only one central take-away message that I think all healthcare professionals need to bear in mind every minute of their working day.  There is no point in any of us being here if we are not continually working for the benefit of our patients.  This may often involve high-tech scientific medicine.  But it also involves the ordinary simple process of providing people with care.  Of not standing idly by when somebody is suffering if there is anything you can do to alleviate that suffering.  And that ‘anything’ might be getting them a glass of water or helping them move in bed or just smiling at them.  This may offer them as much as determining the correct dose of antibiotic.  Yet it is in this most basic of all healthcare provisions – care of our fellow human beings - that our colleagues at the Stafford failed.  This is a source of shame to us all. We cannot change the past but we can internalise the messages of the Francis Report and very quietly commit at a personal level to ensure that each of us provides that highest quality of care personally and takes responsibility for helping others to do the same.  I urge you to make that commitment today.

Anthony Warrens

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