Last week on the Today programme there were two interviews back to back with medical regulatory bodies concerning the scandal at Stafford Hospital.
Jackie Smith, the Chief Executive of the Nursing and Midwifery Council came across as defensive, and the overall impression was that the council was not taking the situation as seriously as it should.
The impression left by Niall Dickson, chief executive of the General Medical Council, was that it was taking the situation seriously and that action was being taken.
This impression was forged in their answers to the first questions put to them.
The difference: that when Jackie Smith was asked why the nurse in charge of the hospital was found to have no case to answer, she started her interview by saying:
‘I’m not in a position to talk about the case against xxx …’
While Niall Dickson responded to the first point put to him that nobody had stepped aside as a result of what had happened by saying:
‘Well, I think what yesterday’s report made it clear was this is a complex issue … in relation to doctors we have conducted 42 investigations into doctors, we have taken action in 23 cases and we have eight cases which are the subject of ongoing investigations.’
What Jackie Smith might have said would be:
‘We understand that people will be concerned that no-one has been held to account so far and this verdict may a surprise given what happened at Stafford. Since the proceedings of xxx’s hearing are confidential by law, I can’t explain them in detail.
However, 10 nurses will be coming to a public hearing in the next couple of months, and we have 41 individual nurses who we are investigating. One nurse has already been prevented from practising.’
If she was unable to give details of a particular case, it would have helped if she had explained why not.
Both these interviews were always going to be extremely tricky. But my view is that starting with a negative variant on ‘no comment’ was the wrong approach, particularly when the NMC was taking action.
What is your impression?
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