June 17: Hospitals under the microscope

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TODAY’S report into a number of deeply disturbing complaints levelled against some of this region’s leading hospitals does need to be viewed in the context of the number of patients who are successfully treated by the NHS. The vast majority of patients receive care that can only be described as exemplary – and this is borne out by the pleasing number of individuals who take the trouble to write heartfelt testimonials to this newspaper’s letters page.

That said, it is only right that hospitals are properly held to account by NHS bosses – or the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman in the most serious incidents – on those few occasions when care falls short of the high standards that patients, and their families, have a right to expect. There is absolutely no defence when a patient is discharged prematurely on Christmas Day and their family is forced to make care arrangements of their own, or the extremely disturbing case of the woman in West Yorkshire whose lung cancer went undiagnosed until it was too late for effective treatment to be administered. She then suffered “unnecessary pain, distress and loss of dignity” in the Ombudsman’s words.

Yet, while hospitals are now even more reluctant to admit to their failings because of a pervasive “compensation culture”, this should not preclude top hospital executives from responding to incidents in person rather than hiding behind a wall of impenetrable legalese in the misguided belief that the complainant will give up. Most people lodge complaints not because they seek financial recompense, but because they are motivated by a desire for lessons to be learned and just wish to be listened to respectfully. If more hospital trusts actually responded promptly in this conciliatory spirit, and they have enough senior executives on the payroll to do so, the wider reputation of the NHS will be enhanced still further.

A matter of faith

Warsi wrong on ‘disengagement’

IT Is disappointing that Sayeeda Warsi should choose now to accuse this Government of pursuing a “policy of disengagement” with British Muslims when her home town of Dewsbury is yet again making the headlines for the wrong reasons owing to the notoriety caused by the actions of 17-year-old IS suicide bomber Talha Asmal.

After all, Baroness Warsi – perhaps piqued that she is no longer a Minister – grew up in the West Yorkshire town and should be using her own rise to public prominence to show that British values are totally compatible with the religious beliefs of those who follow Islam and that the Government should, in fact, be praised for the positive steps being taken in order to foster a multi-faith society.

This is reflected by the record number of politicians of Asian descent who hold Ministerial posts; they recognise the power of the individual to make a positive difference and it is regrettable that Baroness Warsi, herself a political pioneer, has disassociated herself from her own party’s endeavours to improve engagement and stop the radicalisation of impressionable people like Talha Asmal or the extended Bradford family, including nine children, who are feared to have been brainwashed by extremists into travelling to Syria and an uncertain fate.

While the Government must continue to maintain a constructive dialogue with the leaders of all faiths, the onus must remain on senior Muslims to counter the poisonous and destructive ideology being spread by IS and others on the internet. This, after all, has the potential to be far more purposeful than any politically-driven initiative.

Michelle mania

First Lady’s ear-splitting welcome

UNLIKE those political spouses such as Winston Churchill’s wife Clementine whose role was to provide unstinting support

behind-the-scenes, the

ear-splitting reception afforded to Michelle Obama at a London school yesterday offered further evidence that First Ladies are now expected to be significant political players in their own right.

For, while Barack Obama has failed to live up to the hype which preceded his presidency of the United States, his wife’s popularity ratings have soared thanks to her easy-going style and the passion that she has brought to her campaign on behalf of those 60 million girls of school-age denied a proper education because of forced marriages, early pregnancies, abuse and sexism. If her initiative, inspired by the courage shown by the youngest-ever Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, succeeds in changing attitudes, Mrs Obama will be able to take credit for using her status to make the world a better place for all. It’s some prize.