It’s strange how these things affect you. After my second child Zola died last spring, shortly after being born, my wife and I went through absolute hell. Grief will tear you apart — as Joy Division might have put it.
But now — almost 18 months on — things have just about returned to normal, only a subtly different normality to the one we inhabited before.
I’m far more scared of things going wrong now, for example, which casts a dark shadow at times.
Another change I’ve noticed is that if I hear about something terrible happening to someone, it rattles around my head for weeks — in a way it didn’t before.
I recently read a tragic news report about an eight-year-old boy called Asa, innocently caught in the crossfire between gangs shooting at each other on a Californian freeway. Poor little Asa was shot, and is now paralysed from the neck down — and I can’t help thinking about him and his stricken parents, even though I’ve never met them.
It’s the same with the unspeakably heartbreaking murder of seven babies in Chester Hospital by Lucy Letby.
It was horrific enough for me and my wife to cope with the death of a newborn when no one else was to blame (our baby died from a bacterial infection) — so what the parents of Letby’s victims have been through must be unbearable.
Just imagine if Chester hospital was operated by the private sector: managers would face criminal charges
At least Letby has now been convicted of murder, and her whole-life sentence means she’ll never be released from prison.
But what I can’t get out of my mind is the desperate unfairness of a system where no charges have been brought against the NHS managers who repeatedly refused and failed to prevent Letby from murdering more babies, even after multiple alarms had been raised by medical staff.
Dr Stephen Brearey was one of the doctors who blew the whistle on Letby, only to see his concerns ignored by bosses. No wonder Brearey now says that there is “no apparent accountability” for NHS managers, and “there doesn’t seem to be any system to make them accountable”.
Brearey’s colleague Dr Ravi Jayaram also warned hospital bosses about Letby — but yet again they did nothing. As he puts it: “As far as I can tell (for) people in senior NHS management positions, there is no robust system of accountability.”
What’s difficult to take is that we’ve been here before. After the NHS Stafford Hospital scandal over a decade ago, where hundreds of patients died in abject pain after being neglected and abused, multiple independent reports concluded that there should be proper accountability for NHS managers.
As the Letby case shows, nothing has changed. Grotesque failures and negligence by NHS senior managers continue to be treated leniently by politicians and the criminal justice system.
Just imagine if Stafford hospital or Chester hospital (where Letby worked) had been operated by private sector for-profit companies. The managers responsible would have quickly faced criminal charges — and rightly so.
After you lose a child, one meagre hope is that lessons are learned that make it less likely that other families experience tragedy themselves.
That’s why it’s so important that the NHS managers at Letby’s hospital who failed to protect the babies under their care are held to account — exactly as they would if they worked in the private sector. Justice has to be done — starting now.
Monstrously good work
Here’s a question for you culture vultures. At which London shop can you buy a jar of human snot, a tub of brain jam and a tin containing “a vague sense of unease”?
The answer: Hoxton Street Monster Supplies in east London, one of my favourite haunts (pun intended). Co-founded by the writer Nick Hornby in 2010, the little charity sells comically spooky wares — all to fund the literacy classes it runs in the back of the space.
The lessons are for local kids, using creative writing to help youngsters improve their reading and writing skills in the funnest way imaginable. It’s been a big year for Hornby and his team, because thanks to the generosity of donors, they recently opened a second outpost at Leadenhall Market.
So any time you’re looking for a gift, buy a tin of “mortal terror”. (Inside you’ll find boiled sweets and a short story by White Teeth author Zadie Smith.) It’ll make the recipient smile (maybe scream) — but it’ll also help a charity doing monstrously good work.
Rohan Silva is the founder of Second Home