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Largest NHS Trust Failing on Safety and Quality of Care

The NHS care watchdog, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has highlighted significant failings regarding the quality of care at Bart’s Health Trust in London, raising serious concerns over patient safety.

The NHS’s largest hospital trust came under fierce criticism from the CQC who rated the Trust as “inadequate” after inspectors found it was seriously understaffed and had cancelled numerous operations due to a shortage of beds.

Among a host of failings identified by the CQC, Bart’s Health Trust was revealed to be failing consistently in terms of patient safety and to have “significant concerns” about how the trust was being led.

The Trust, which currently faces a £100m deficit, was put under special measures in March after a CQC inspection of Whipps Cross, one of its other hospitals, resulted in a damning report into patient care and the way the hospital was run.

When inspectors examined two of the trust’s six hospitals, Newham General Hospital, and the Royal London Hospital – a renowned centre for the treatment of stabbing victims – they discovered that poor morale and a culture of blame was endemic amongst staff members who were discouraged from raising safety concerns and felt undervalued by trust leadership.

In addition, there was evidence of bullying, and staffing was so problematic at both hospitals that staff-patient ratios were sometimes breached and there was an over-reliance on temporary staff.

Most worryingly, it transpired that no less than eight patients had undergone surgery on the wrong part of their body over the last 14 months. Such wrong site surgery incidents are known as “never events” within the NHS.

Never events are serious, preventable patient safety incidents that, put simply, should never happen. Hospitals are required to monitor the occurrence of never events and publicly report their occurrences to the NHS, National Patient Safety Agency. The full list of Never Events for 2015/2016 can be found here.

Provisional data from NHS England for the year 1 April 2014 to 31 March 2015, indicates there were 308 never events last year, of which 126 involved wrong site surgery.

It seems incredible that there can be so many apparently avoidable failings in a profession which is designed to protect. Sadly, we believe that in many cases, not all never events are reported and there is therefore likely to be less information then there should be about how and why these events are allowed to occur.

The Clinical Negligence team at Slater and Gordon Lawyers have found that in a number of recent cases, wrong site surgery incidents were not even recognised until it was too late. In one case, a patient underwent surgery which required the use of clips. Unfortunately the clips were placed on the wrong organ which resulted in non-repairable damage occurring.

What is so concerning about these types of failings, is that they are completely preventable.
Any blunder of this nature, which can include leaving medical instruments or swabs inside patients post-surgery, can obviously have devastating consequences and the NHS needs to address why these mistakes are happening and what can be done to prevent them from re-occurring.

Karen Cathcart is a Clinical and Medical Negligence Solicitor, specialising in all aspects of Clinical Negligence matters within the London Team.

If you or a loved one suffered following a Never Event, call Slater and Gordon Lawyers for a free consultation on freephone 0800 916 9049 or contact us online.

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