Month: December 2015


Last week David Southall approached me to ask if I would publish this piece as a guest blog on “Big Up the NHS”. I have just started a new job as a medical consultant in his trust so I am getting to know about the organisation.  I already know it is a good hospital staffed by good people. Also I totally agree with what he is saying – so there was no hesitation. Here it is.


Well the cat seems to be alive-and-dead simultaneously in the sealed box. At least that was the conclusion of the thought experiment by Erwin Schrödinger of his cat placed in a box with a bottle of poison and various other paraphernalia

It got me thinking because my hospital has recently enjoyed (or should that be endured) a CQC visit. The Hospitals in our Trust have been rated as inadequate and placed into special measures. And we are not the only ones…..

But the Devil, of course, is in the detail. So let’s take an example from our maternity services. On the CQC’s table of conclusions maternity was rated INADEQUATE for SAFETY and being WELL LED yet OUTSTANDING for CARING. So it seems that my hospital, as viewed in its regulatory box, is both “ALIVE and DEAD”!

That’s fine – it fits with Schrödinger’s model. But when you open the box the hospital still seems to be “ALIVE and DEAD”. This seems absurd to me. Surely caring staff would not let patients’ safety be compromised. OK, so in quantum physics strange things happen (and it is a wacky world), but at least even the most geeky scientists realise that in the real world – outside the box – on observation the cat is one or another. It can only be ALIVE or it can be DEAD.

Not so with the CQC it seems.

But if quantum physics isn’t your bag, then let me take something less prosaic from my working class roots- BINGO! Now in this game, with your big felt tip pen, you win the prize if you are the first to mark off all the numbers in one of the lines on your card. “House !” you shout as you hurry to pick up your fiver. But the CQC game of bingo is different. If you have two RED “INADEQUATES” in one line you can shout “HOUSE- INADEQUATE”. This just does not make sense in any bingo world I know. No fiver for you then,

All it does is demoralise staff and make the public less confident in their hospitals, but perhaps that is what the Powers-That-Be want.

So here are my 3 thoughts:

1) Pretty soon the whole world will be in special measures and found to be inadequate

2) Schrödinger’s Cat and the CQC have a lot in common – normal mortals struggle to understand them.

3) Don’t change the rules of bingo or you’ll have the working class in uproar.

Oh and don’t put a cat in a box with poison- unless you are really looking for trouble!

David Southall (Chaplain)