Kennedy refused to read the General Medical Council's reports

BMJ 2001; 323 doi: (Published 28 July 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;323:183
  1. Clare Dyer

    Professor Ian Kennedy, the chairman of the Bristol inquiry, tried to keep an open mind as he listened to parents' distressing stories. Clare Dyer talked to him

    Professor Ian Kennedy's brother, Stuart, lost his life on the front lines of the NHS. A surgeon, he died while the Bristol inquiry was hearing evidence, after contracting hepatitis operating on a patient. In his report, Kennedy dedicated to his brother's memory “any contribution I may make to the future of the NHS.” That contribution will be substantial if the government implements even half of the inquiry's 198 recommendations.

    If the main thrust of the report is taken on board, the NHS should move from a culture of “making do” and of blame and secrecy to a culture of safety, in which high standards are set and carefully monitored and mistakes are no longer covered up but openly acknowledged and learned from.

    The first half of the inquiry dissected what went wrong at the Bristol Royal Infirmary in the 1980s and early ‘90s—the “club culture,” the sense of “us and them,” the dangerous physical setup on a split site, the lack of teamwork, and the surgeons, monitored only by themselves, who refused to accept what the mortality data told them.

    “Bristol over-reached itself,” Kennedy says. “Its ambitions were too ambitious. It wasn't up …

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