We are all champions of diversity, aren’t we? We have been taught that the highest moral commandment of all has been left out of the Decalogue only by oversight.
The commandment sounds a bit cumbersome, lacking the pinpoint concision of the old ten. But to make up for its prolixity, it raises morality to a whole new level. To wit: “Any staff of employees shall reflect the ethnic makeup of the population as a whole, but with an extra emphasis on employees representing groups perceived to suffer, or ever to have suffered, discrimination.”
Complying with this commandment supersedes any other considerations, such as competence. Hence, if the number of the formerly or currently oppressed employees falls below the mandated quota, this gap must be filled regardless of the new hirees’ ability to do the job.
This is a difficult concept to get one’s head around, especially when people’s lives are at stake, as they are in medicine. But, as far as the NHS is concerned, some concerns are higher than mere physical survival, and diversity is prime among them.
To that noble end the NHS procured the services of Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba, putting her on a collision course with the superseded commandment of “thou shalt not kill”. Then a six-year-old boy was delivered to her care at a Leicester hospital.
The good doctor diagnosed the child with gastroenteritis, failing to spot the markers of impending sepsis, such as a kidney infection that showed clearly on the blood test. As a result, Dr Hadiza Bawa-Garba found herself in trouble, which wasn’t, however, as bad as the boy’s. He died.
That spectacle of negligence and incompetence was so egregious that both the NHS and the courts had to act. In 2015, Dr Bawa-Garba was convicted of manslaughter and given a two-year suspended sentence. She was also struck off.
Such a cluster of punishments is rare in the medical profession, but Dr Bawa-Garba qualified with room to spare, which is more than can be said for her ability to practise medicine.
However, the NHS is known for its generosity, which may at times be biased but never understated. Hence Dr Bawa-Garba was invited back into the fold, and the other day the medical tribunal ruled that she even no longer had to work under supervision.
She, decided the tribunal, was now “performing above the expectations for her trainee level”. That may be, but I for one would be suspicious of a doctor who is still a trainee in her mid-forties – this even regardless of prior convictions for manslaughter.
Understandably, the dead boy’s parents feel less magnanimous than the NHS, but then they can’t see the forest of a higher morality for the trees of their private, and therefore immaterial, grief.
The victim’s mother proved her narrow-minded focus by saying: “I think it’s absolutely disgusting that she’s been able to go back to work like nothing ever happened. She killed my son. We have to live with this until the day we die.”
To be fair, the NHS’s commitment to diversity may not be the only reason for its reinstating Dr Bawa-Garba, or hiring her in the first place. The NHS is finding it increasingly hard to find doctors, which leads to some laxity in its demand for proper qualifications.
For example, even foreign doctors who don’t know enough English to communicate with patients are welcomed with open arms. For the same reason, existing doctors are overworked, which was cited as the reason for Dr Bawa-Garba’s little mistake. Apparently, she killed that poor boy at the end of a 12-hour shift.
The downside of such long hours is clear, but then so is the medical upside. Continuity of care is an important concept in medicine, and it’s not always a good idea for two doctors, not one, to look after the same patient on the same day.
This insight comes courtesy of the doctors among my friends. They also explain why the NHS is so short-handed.
This gets us back on the track of the diversity commandment and other such perversions, as part of the reason so many doctors are leaving the NHS in the prime of their lives. It all boils down to why young people choose this vocation to begin with.
Some are doubtless attracted mainly by the possible pecuniary rewards, but most simply want to treat, possibly save, patients. What they don’t want is to spend half their time filling up endless forms, attending sensitivity courses, reading illiterate memos issued by diversity directors and assorted optimisers of facilitation and facilitators of optimisation. Nor are they happy to see the number of hospital beds cut for lack of funding, while those parasites come in at six-figure salaries.
Yet this is what the NHS forces them to do, proving yet again that any giant public structure serves mainly the state, not the ostensible end users of its services. After a couple of decades of getting swamped in that fashion, good, conscientious doctors become cynical first, jaded second and prematurely retired third.
The NHS then has to search high and wide, looking for some, any, new doctors to take up the slack. In come the Bawa-Garbas of this world, who tick all the important boxes except one. The box of their ability to keep patients alive remains blank.