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To what extent can tomorrow’s doctors prevent organisational failure by speaking up?
  1. Martin Powell
  1. Health Services Management Centre, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
  1. Correspondence to Prof Martin Powell, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, B15 2RT, UK; m.powell{at}

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Daniel Taylor and Dawn Goodwin present a case study of the Morecambe Bay Inquiry (MBI), which examined the high rate of maternal and neonatal deaths over a period of 9 years (2004–2013), within the small maternity unit of Furness General Hospital (FGH), one of the three hospitals comprising Morecambe Bay Hospitals Trust.1 They examine this through a conceptual lens, and provide a solution involving changes in medical education. This commentary explores both these elements.

First, they use the lens of ‘Normalisation of Deviance’ (NoD) to explain organisational failure. However, other available lenses such as ‘Sociology of Disasters’, ‘Organisational Silence’ and ‘Comfort-seeking Behaviour’ may point to different problems and solutions. More justification for their choice of the lens of NoD would have been useful. Similarly, more justification for their focus on a cluster of five ‘serious untoward incidents’ (SUIs) occurring in 2008 would also have been useful. They suggest that before 2008, the perinatal mortality rate was low, patient satisfaction was high and recent level 2 accreditation of maternity services by the Clinical Negligence Scheme for Trusts all suggested standards of care within the obstetric department were adequate. This stream of positive signals is likely to have contributed towards a genuine belief of safe operation within the maternity unit by staff and board members.

However, as they acknowledge, the first problem can be seen in 2004. According to the MBI,2 there were SUIs in the years before and after 2008, but this …

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  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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