Patients failed by managers

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IT WILL be of little comfort to the people of Rotherham that the problems that have bedeviled their hospital are an object lesson in the failings that have beset the NHS nationally over recent years.

Indeed, the chaos which resulted from the purchase of a multi-million pound computer system has been typical of the general failure of the public sector to handle large-scale IT projects.

According to a new report, the problems began with the private contractors charged with training staff at Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust not being able to understand the new Meditech patient-record system. They were compounded by the behaviour of top executives who dismissed doctors’ concerns about the system in order to keep up the pretence that the project was working.

As a result, about 5,000 fewer outpatient appointments were booked than anticipated, large numbers of patients turned up for clinics unexpectedly, crucial targets for cancer treatment were missed and the trust was left £1.4m out of pocket.

Consider that another review, previously withheld, describes the debt-ridden trust’s board as dysfunctional and ineffective, with a consequently detrimental effect on the health of the trust, and a clear picture emerges of an organisation where senior managers’ overriding concern was to cover their own backs.

But if the executives could not be trusted, what about those charged with keeping an eye on them? Where was the trust’s council of governors in all this chaos and where was the NHS regulator, Monitor, whose failings were so graphically exposed in the deaths of hundreds of patients in the Stafford Hospital scandal?

How many more examples are needed of NHS institutions being run in the interests of providers rather than patients before proper reforms are initiated and, crucially, those responsible are named and held to account?

Brussels v Putin: There can only be one winner

THE myth that the European Union has a common foreign and security policy is one that has been peddled for years by federalists eager to downplay the role of national governments.

In truth, however, getting the 28 member-states to act with one voice in response to major international issues has been akin to herding cats, as shown in a succession of foreign-policy crises, from Kosovo to Iraq.

David Cameron is right, therefore, to hail a measure of agreement between EU leaders over Russia’s shameless annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula.

The sanctions agreed against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s cronies will be a real inconvenience to these members of the Moscow government. But that is all they will be.

Indeed, if Mr Cameron is serious about these types of targeted sanctions, it may be up to the UK to take unilateral action to extend them further, bearing in mind that London is the preferred home of many Russian billionaire oligarchs with strong ties to Mr Putin, men such as Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich.

However, while travel bans and asset seizures will make Mr Putin aware of the world’s disapproval, they will not result in the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine.

And, with so many EU states dependent on Russia for a portion of their energy supplies, foreign ministers will be very wary of applying further sanctions, as the Russian President knows only too well.

Crimea, the gift which Russia gave to Ukraine in 1954, has been brutally reclaimed. The question now is how Brussels and Washington will react should Mr Putin decide that other pieces of Ukrainian territory are his for the taking.

Living link with the Holocaust

THE tireless work done by all those determined never to allow the appalling memory of the Holocaust to die is exemplified by the Holocaust Educational Trust which does so much to ensure that new generations become aware of the horrors of the past.

Nor is it enough, for the Lessons From Auschwitz Project, for children merely to be told of the extermination of millions at the hands of the Nazis. They must also see the evidence for themselves.

Thus it was that 16-year-old Celine Bickerdike was among a group of Yorkshire students who visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp earlier. Yet, for Celine, the horrors of Auschwitz were already all too real, given that her grandmother, Helena, was born there.

Such a personal link with this terrible story is rare and, of course, becoming rarer. And this is why the efforts of those who strive to educate the young about the Holocaust are invaluable, not only in keeping the past alive, but in trying to ensure that it is not repeated.