No-one in the UK could have missed the tragedy which has become known as ‘Winterbourne View’. Here the safety of dozens of patients was compromised and many of us watched in revulsion the Panorama exposé of the most unbelievably horrific care dealt out to some of the most vulnerable in our society delivered by a private hospital. Completely shocking!
The recent independent investigation calls for “fundamental changes to how care for vulnerable adults is commissioned and monitored.” What is worse, we now learn that concerns were raised before the Panorama report which means that this could have been stopped sooner. When are we going to listen to the warning signs?
The report cites untrained staff as a key issue with Margaret Flynn, the report’s author, commenting that Castlebeck had “promoted an unworkable management structure” and relied on “poorly paid and untrained staff”. This is a warning to all in business, particularly as we look to reduce costs and make efficiencies. Cutting investment in staff and particularly training are easy targets and may potentially solve a perceived issue today but I would argue it only stores up a time bomb for later.
The report also goes on to state that staff were “chronically bored” in their roles at the hospital, which was “poorly managed”. People need to be held to account and arguably they were. Eleven former workers at the private hospital have pleaded guilty to almost 40 charges of abuse and are due to be sentenced later at Bristol Crown Court. However, this is far too late for those patients who were subject to this abuse, which was potentially much more widespread than reported. Mencap and the Challenging Behaviour Foundation said they had received 260 reports from families concerning abuse and neglect in institutional care since the Panorama programme was broadcast.
Our job as business leaders is to look at these reports and see what we can learn from them. We should not sit in our ivory towers just because we are in a different market sector. We should be always looking at the lessons from failure as well as success to improve our business. We are never too old, experienced or too big to head the warnings.
Whilst I am on the subject, we often hear a great deal knocking the NHS and reports of failure. This was a private provider failing. I also hear that the much celebrated relationship at Hinchinbrooke Hospital, which in February this year became the first NHS hospital to be operated by private partner Circle, is facing major financial challenges and looking for a central bailout. Instead of pitching the private against the public sector perhaps a much more adult approach would to be to see what we can learn from each other?