Letter: Standards of care in NHS trusts

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The Independent Online
Sir: Angela Lambert's 'A whiff of NHS decay' (28 December) described one instance of poor quality care in a NHS trust. It is absurd to argue from this that the NHS is in some sort of terminal decline. Trust hospitals are treating more patients than ever and using their freedom and initiative to improve the services they provide. The vast majority of patients in trusts are satisfied with the care they have received. Inevitably, there are going to be instances of poor quality care: it is my duty to ensure that these are kept to an absolute minimum. Ms Lambert chose not to divulge the trust concerned, but if she does so, I will follow up her case.

The article implied that quality of care for the individual is being sacrificed to the quantity of patients treated. Whether in government or in the NHS, we have a responsibility to see that we gain maximum value for every pound spent. No one will thank us if we fail to achieve that objective. Money wasted means that patients suffer needlessly. The focus for the health service should be on efficiency - not as an end in itself but as a reflection of care and concern for the patient.

Above all, the article was insulting to the thousands of nurses in our hospitals. It accused them of a 'bunny-girl mentality' which lacked tenderness. It judged that male nurses in particular 'do not seem to care'. When visiting hospitals and clinics, I am struck constantly by the dedication and compassion of those staff, male and female, who provide round-the-clock care to patients.

Yours faithfully,

TOM SACKVILLE

Under Secretary of State

for Health

Department of Health

London, SW1

31 December

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