Julie Bailey, campaigning leader

A community protest contributed to exposure of shocking deficiencies of standards in a Staffordshire NHS trust. The protest was led by Julie Bailey, an exemplar of service leadership

Julie Bailey initiated and then led the community-based movement from a local cafe. It turned out that a very different kind of research would draw official attention to potentially serious problems through a sophisticated analysis of medical records. It will be difficult to assess the contributions of the team of medical analysts within the health system, and local activists outside it to the unfolding dramatic events.

I am concentrating on the leadership behaviours shown locally, which came to light as the damning report was published, [March 17th 2009] with the news of replacement of the former leadership of the trust. The report focused on lack of resources, poor management, in over-concern for to meeting various targets which were indicators of good practice while becoming in denial over actual clinical care which the targets were intended to assess.

The BBC reported that

About 400 more people died at Stafford Hospital between 2005 and 2008 than would be expected, the Healthcare Commission said. [T]here were deficiencies at “virtually every stage” of emergency care and managers pursued targets to the detriment of patient care.

Julie Bailey was interviewed for the report. She told her story in clear and calm terms which reinforced its horrific message. It began with the immediate experience she witnessed when her mother was admitted to the trust in a scene of chaotic nature which she was to discover extended to entire wards of suffering patients. Her immediate reaction was to attempt to deal with the local situation and she appears to have stayed with her mother with increasing desperation and awareness that the lack of care extended extensively within the hospital (the eventual report found extreme mis-management within the accident and emergency system, as well as on the wards.

Bailey was to see her mother die with evidential poor care within a few weeks of admission. By then, her concern and anger had led to a strong drive to obtain justice for what had happened not just to one patient but to what she saw as an entire community touched by the practices of the Trust.

Initial attempts to obtain legal advice revealed how difficult it would be for one person of limited means to change a system, Julie Bailey succeeded in mobilizing people to create pressure which eventually made a difference.

A letter to a local paper confirmed that many others confirmed Bailey’s experience was not an isolated incident. A local protest group emerged. Julie Bailey seems to have been the voice on its behalf. Its efforts are still low-key in publicity terms, and I had trouble finding out much through web searches.

Her video reveals someone who took the lead demonstrating a combination of resilience and unwavering commitment to a cause against the odds. This was in face of discouragement from experienced professionals, and apparent disinterest from politicians.

What is special about Julie Bailey?

Students of leadership will benefit from studying the case. Initial reports suggest that much more is to be learned about its context. One immediate impression is how she could stand in great contrast to the received stereotype of a charismatic leader. She has a moving personal style of delivery. But it takes its power from its ordinariness and calmness in communicating a story which is extra-ordinary. I can imagine her drawing strength through being a channel though which voices of many others touched by this episode become heard.

Charismatic leadership? Transformational leadership? Creative leadership? I’m not sure. Servant or service leadership? Maybe, although the concept needs more attention than it has received to date.

3 Responses to Julie Bailey, campaigning leader

  1. Sharon Money says:

    My Father died aged 60 in 2000.

    At one point I took him to Stafford Hospital A&E as he could not eat, pass anything and was in severe pain. The Triage Nurse told us to go home and wait to see a GP (my Father was on the waiting list to see a Consultant and despite various letters to the Consultant with results, asking for earlier appointments, nothing was done). Going to A&E was because he was so ill. I asked the Nurse whether it would have been better to dial 999 but she informed me that he still would not have been seen. Dad was so distraught and just wanted to go back home.

    Unfortunately Dad was admitted and the diagnosis was cancer bowel with secondaries to his liver. He was operated on very late and we were told to “prepare ourselves” (presumably for the outcome)!

    Whilst he was in hospital we had to remind nurses that his medications had run out via a drip and at one point his oxygen was given incorrectly, which caused a panic with the nursing team.

    I remember an elderly man in the bed opposite who had been operated on and had drips etc attached to him. At one point he was hanging out of his bed with his false teeth also nearly falling out. Food was placed at the foot of the bed on the tray covered over with clingfilm. I peeled the clingfilm off for him and moved it closer to him (no way would he have eaten/drank anything as he could not move because of all the lines/drip/bag etc).

    Although the hospital say they have no beds there was an empty ward down from where my Father was and we helped ourselves to extra pillows/blankets etc from a cupboard.

    If you asked nurses to come to help it took so long and they walked by; certainly ignoring patients in trouble, like the man hanging out of his bed. He had to be re-operated on in the end because he had pulled the lines/bag out. I know his Consultant was very cross and told one nurse he should have been told.

    My Father was moved to a room on his own and the one ? Sister was horrid/stern/unhelpful. My Sister and I at one point sat crying in the corridor and no-one came to help or indeed move us to a side room!

    In the end the one kind nurse said she could not watch my Father any longer as they could not care for him and he was moved, unconscious to Katherine Hospice, where he died.

    I did see the Triage Nurse to inform her that my Father was admitted and the prognosis not good and all she said asked was why he had waited another week from attending A&E – to this I replied that he thought no-one cared and he tried to “put up with his pain”.

    An experience I will never forget, in more ways than one.

  2. diana smith says:

    Most media stories are written from only one angle.

    Julie Bailey’s skill, but also her weakness, is to ensure that her angle was the only one that has been seen.

    The many stories that need to be told about Stafford Hospital are a great deal more complex than you might imagine from the media clips.

    One day I might do a book on it!

  3. Lilly Robinson says:

    What a facinating women, we need more like her. I’m intrigued as to how she managed to expose this hospital when it seems no one wanted the story told.

    I’m interested in this study because she has had the courage to do what many others, who had a duty to do, didn’t.

    As for the media, I have now seen her in many interviews acting as a channel for others which she continues to do. It intrigues me how she manages to do this and I will be following the subject with interest.

    Through my involvement in the NHS I have read most related articles and she has managed to expose that the problems are nationaly, which is further credit to the subject.

    I have also read “Turning the NHS the right way up” the groups proposals for change. If adopted, I am sure it will serve the future of the NHS well. Radical but needed change that gives the power back to the clinical staff.

    I disagree with the above comment as I feel one of her strengths is her ability to speak up for those she represents and also those within the NHS.

    Does anyone know if she has plans to write a book?

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