Cambridge University Hospitals Trust has been placed in special measures after a recent report by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) highlighted a number of concerns at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, and the adjoining Rosie birth centre.
Delays in outpatient treatment, staff shortages, and regular maternity unit closures were some of the major issues identified. The report follows a series of inspections conducted at the hospital in April and May this year.
The CQC’s report found that patient care was being compromised due to frequent cancellations of routine operations, long delays in outpatients’ appointments being allocated and regular closures of the maternity services. “Significant” staff shortages in a number of areas, including critical care, were also identified as a major concern, with many staff being moved across different services, often to areas in which they lacked the appropriate skills and training.
Equally as concerning was the revelation that best practice medical guidelines were not always followed at the Rosie birth centre, including on continuous foetal heart rate monitoring during labour. The report also highlighted that high levels of nitrous oxide had been detected at the birthing centre. Nitrous oxide, also known as ‘laughing gas’ is used for pain relief in child birth and has been linked to dizziness, unconsciousness and even death if there is a lack of oxygen. Worryingly, despite knowing about the issue for more than two years, senior managers had merely advised staff to open windows where possible to address the problem.
Interestingly, despite the services being judged as “inadequate” in terms of their safety levels and leadership, the NHS regulator, Monitor rated the quality of care within the Trust as “outstanding.” What this seems to suggest is that the issues do not concern the quality of staff but rather, the staff shortages within the hospital which the CQC said had long been ignored.
The Trust will now join a list of 13 other failing NHS Trusts already placed in special measures. “Special measures” is a term used when the CQC and the NHS Health regulator, Monitor intervene to help the Trust develop a plan of action to improve its services.
Commenting on the findings, the Trust’s chairwoman, Jane Ramsay assured the public that the Trust would “take rapid action to address concerns,” adding that it took the decision to place it in special measures “very seriously.”
Addenbrooke’s Hospital is renowned for excellence in organ transplant medicine and providing high-quality care. We sincerely hope that the measures put in place to improve standards will serve to minimise risks to patients and restore public confidence in Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
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