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H&P historians contribute to Savile ‘lessons learnt’ report


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Kate Lampard QC and Ed Marsden’s ‘lessons learnt’ report from the NHS investigations into Jimmy Savile drew on the expertise of H&P historians to inform understanding of his abuse and to draw lessons for today.

In releasing the report, Themes and lessons learnt from NHS investigations into matters relating to Jimmy Savile, Lampard referred to differences in social attitudes and deference, hospital management structures, awareness of abuse and media culture between then and now. That is not to say the circumstances that allowed Savile to act have disappeared, the report makes clear, citing 14 recommendations relating to: security and access arrangements (including celebrity and VIPs); the role and management of volunteers; safeguarding: raising complaints and concerns; fundraising and charity governance; and the observance of due process and good governance.

The authors were conscious of the historical nature of events and the need to understand the culture and structures in which Savile operated.

The need to take account of the historical background to the events and issues arising in the Savile investigations prompted us to commission History & Policy to put on a discussion event for the main NHS investigation team leads and us. We wanted to gain evidence and understanding of the historical culture and circumstances that would have influenced Savile’s behaviour and how others responded to him. We also wanted to gain insight how the culture and circumstances in question have altered over time so that we could identify the lessons that today’s NHS should draw from the Savile affair.

Eight H&P historians presented research relevant to the NHS investigations and Lampard's overview at a discussion event at King’s College London in May 2013. In the lessons learnt report, which links to the historians' presentations, Lampard and Marsden say: 

We think it would be helpful...to set out some of the "headline" findings and mesages we took from the event, and which informed our consideration of how Savile was able to behave as he did and the implications for present day arrangements in NHS hospitals. 

In response to the Stoke Mandeville and lessons learnt reports released today, H&P historians outline research that shows the challenges of changing management and culture in hospitals.

In 'These outrages are going on more than people know', Dr Adrian Bingham, Dr Lucy Delap, Dr Louise Jackson and Dr Louise Settle argue that concern about child sex abuse, and attempts to prevent it, has a long history. The case of Mr G, a hospital fundraiser found guilty of indecent assault of a 15-year-old girl in 1925, has parallels with the Savile case today.

Professor Sally Sheard shows that while past abuse scandals have galvanised public inquiries, wider institutional barriers, and politics, can influence whether a minister drives through change and ensures recommendations are implemented: Can we never learn? Abuse, complaints and inquiries in the NHS.

Dr Bingham examines the press culture of the 1960s and 1907s that helped NHS investigators answer the question: How did he get away with so much for so long? 

Listen to Dr Delap on BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Saturday 28 February (7.43am) discussing the lessons of the 1925 Mr G case for policy makers today. 

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H&P is an expanding Partnership based at King's College London and the University of Cambridge, and additionally supported by the University of Bristol, the University of Edinburgh, the University of Leeds, the Open University, and the University of Sheffield.

We are the only project in the UK providing access to an international network of more than 500 historians with a broad range of expertise. H&P offers a range of resources for historians, policy makers and journalists.

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