Posted by: Witch Doctor | February 8, 2013

Staffordshire : Step away from the spreadsheets


Yesterday the Public Inquiry on Mid-Staffordshire was published.

And yesterday My Black Cat fished out part of an article that had been published in the Wall Street Journal two days before.

She thought it was relevant to the problems at Mid-Staffordshire and elsewhere in the NHS. But it was really about the Iraq War and the muddle regarding weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

“In 2002 and 2003 some very smart people with access to the most sophisticated data and imagery available made a convincing case that Iraq was in possession of weapons of mass destruction. One invasion later, and the truth was revealed: the suspected WMD stockpiles did not exist. I spent several months in 2003 as a member of the CIA’s WMD search team in Iraq, and the stark contrast between the data I studied before arriving and the reality on the ground was shocking. Simply showing up and asking the right people the right questions told a very different story from the imagery, the intercepts, and the analysis. Human intelligence, in this case, made a mockery of the spreadsheets. This isn’t always so, of course. But an overreliance on metrics, spreadsheets, and forecasts can leave number-driven executives blind to the ground truth”.

With Stafford it took a long time for the data to come up with anything and when it did it was too late. People had already suffered and many (perhaps over 1000) had needlessly died.

It should not take Dr Foster, governments, other data collecting agencies and local spreadsheet lovers to tell when there is neglect in a hospital. Mid Staffordshire is a hospital where clerical staff were triaging A and E patients, where patients were lying unwashed in their own excrements, where relatives were cleaning the toilets, where pain relief was not given, where patients were not being fed, where confused patients were so thirsty they are drinking out of flower vases and much more.

All of this is so basic that it should have been picked up by Chief Executives, Chairs, Medical Directors, Clinical Directors because they should have got their backsides off their comfy ergonomic chairs and walked around the place informally and frequently and as they did talk to staff, patients and relatives. Then they would have seen the stark reality for themselves.


Not rocket science.

Neither spreadsheets nor data collection is required.

Just simple observation.

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