Lidington: Reporting sexual abuse should be a legal requirement

David Lidington MP

David Lidington MP

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The report into Jimmy Savile’s campaign of abuse at Stoke Mandeville is horrifying to read.

Many of his victims felt too scared or ashamed to report what had happened.

Even worse, those who did summon up the courage to do so found their complaints ignored or brushed aside.

As the report concludes, even by the different rules and standards of the 1970s and 80s, that should not have happened.

Like I’m sure many others who rely on Stoke Mandeville, I found myself asking how certain we could be that this kind of thing couldn’t happen today.

Here, the report is reassuring.

In the early 1990s, a combination of more rigorous national policies and the creation of a local NHS Trust that gave Stoke Mandeville’s management power to challenge Savile led to strict limits on his access.

The report found no complaints of abuse by him more recently than 1994.
It was also a relief to read that the rules and systems in place today at Stoke Mandeville and Wycombe for safeguarding and for handling complaints meet modern standards. 
But we can’t be complacent.

However tough the rules, there will always be people who for evil purposes seek to get round them. 
We do now have much more rigorous NHS policies on handling complaints but, as the Mid-Staffordshire Hospital scandal showed, more needs to be done to protect staff who raise concerns.

Both national and local safeguarding policies are also much stronger now than 30 or 40 years ago, but I think we need a system for mandatory reporting of alleged abuse in hospitals, schools, or care homes.

I’m pleased that the Health Secretary has launched a consultation on how to get the legal language for this new duty absolutely right.

Another lesson I drew from the report was the need for top quality hospital management.

No-one wants unnecessary bureaucracy in the NHS, but as the Savile report shows you do need effective and able managers both to put the right systems in place and, through their leadership, to change the working culture of a hospital for the better.