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Attack on 'climate of fear' in NHS

A moratorium on trust hospitals and GP fundholding has been urged until they have shown they improve patient care and are cost-effective and more efficient than existing systems.

An editorial in the medical journal The Lancet says the original aim of free care for all from 'cradle to the grave' by a National Health Service no longer holds true. Changes have been introduced in a haphazard and piecemeal fashion, with no opportunity for 'an exploration of the successes and the failures'.

It also points out the new climate of fear in the NHS which is stifling the opinions of people who work in it, with those who do speak out becoming 'victims of private sector personnel handling at its very worst'.

'The uncritical application to the NHS of business methods and language is widening the gulf between managers and clinical and nursing staff.' So-called 'whistleblowers' have to be afforded protection by the media 'more suited to the protection of informants on the Irish Republican Army'.

The editorial was prompted by recent events which included the dismissal of a nurse at the Plymouth NHS Trust for the 'technical' offence of repeating drug orders for a patient without a doctor's signature. The nurse, who had been in the NHS for 37 years, had spoken out about declining standards. In Burnley, a consultant who had made his views on the NHS changes clear, was dismissed on the grounds that there were not enough patients.