Sunday, May 29, 2011

An accepted expedient of public administration

The concluding remarks of Maurice Kay LJ in the Sharon Shoesmith case (see previous post) compare her case with that of Rose Gibb (see Court of Appeal judgement in that case). Shoesmith's problem was a report by Ofsted, whereas Gibb had to deal with a report on the superbug, C. difficile, by the Heathcare Commission. As far as the learned judge was concerned, in both cases it seemed "that the making of a public sacrifice to deflect press and public obloquy ....  remains an accepted expedient of public administration in this country".

The problem is that regulators' reports may be written to maintain public confidence by identifying mistakes and errors of judgement, rather than being a truly independent assessment. Such inquiries therefore are used to achieve political aims. Written with the benefit of hindsight bias they rarely show that people have acted with bad faith or without reasonable care. Instead scapegoats are found.

Rose Gibb clearly thinks this happened to her (see I was victimised, demonised). As does Sharon Shoesmith. Similar processes were at work in the mid-Staffs inquiry (see past blog entry). As I've mentioned in a previous post, Robert Francis has the chance to correct this scapegoating in his review of health regulators.

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