What is the role of personal agency in wilfully blind cultures?
At what point, and at what distance from an issue, does our personal responsibility to act and intervene lie? This is a question that has occupied many intelligent and inquiring minds for as long as records exist.
It is more than fifteen years since the tragic cases of patient neglect occurring on the wards at the Mid-Staffs NHS Hospitals Trust started to unfold, it is now nearly ten years since the publication of the final report. The full version of the final report into the events at Mid-Staffs Hospitals consists of four documents containing over 1800 pages in total and contains 290 recommendations. However, people working in NHS health services will tell you, that in reality little has changed, there have been some improvements, but there have also been many backward steps.
To many in the NHS and to the numerous patient interest groups who have long lobbied for consistent high-quality health and care services in the UK, however shocking the report had been, they felt its findings, observations, and recommendations had been sanitized because it failed to call out the real elephant in the room. In all the reports many pages, there is not one single reference to wilful blindness or the absence of personal agency at senior levels, these being undeniable and significant contributory factors within the tragedy that occurred.
Where does and where should accountability lie, and when does an issue become something we should get involved in? What are the things we turn a blind eye, or a deaf ear to, why do we choose to do so, do we know when we are doing it? Importantly, what can we do to normalise displays of well-intentioned personal agency within the organisations we are part of, organisations that many of us and our loved ones will depend on?