Alder Hey Hospital “potentially unsafe”, inspectors warn

20 February 2014

Alder Hey Hospital “potentially unsafe”, inspectors warn

Leading children's hospital has "worrying" safety risks according to scathing report

Health watchdog inspectors have found evidence of “very worrying” staff shortages and a lack of essential surgery equipment in operating theatres. The scathing report on the Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust led to warnings that the children’s hospital is “potentially unsafe” and that the hospital had failed four out of five national standards on quality and safety.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) undertook an unannounced visit at the hospital after being tipped off from theatre staff who were worried that children were being placed at risk due to shortages in important hospital equipment. CQC inspectors found that the Liverpool hospital lacked vital equipment used to check the breathing of children during procedures and also that oxygen cylinders were being retained despite passing their sell-by-dates. The report also found that safety incidents were often unreported, low staffing was endemic and the emergency call alarm system to alert staff to crises was not working.

"Inadequate Staffing"

The CQC investigation came after an internal review written by the trust’s director of nursing who had found that the safety within its theatre department had been compromised with “shortcuts being made to safety processes that have created high risk activity”.

The CQC report found “inadequate staffing” in theatre departments and that staffing levels were unpredictable and infrequent due to sickness and inefficient staff ratio systems. Additionally, theatre staff were found to be poorly trained, unable to identify the seriousness of incident classification and were not following national guidelines on checking equipment within theatres.

The report said: “We found that essential items of equipment such as capnography (airways monitoring equipment) was not in place. Guidance recommendations relating to the availability of emergency call bells had also not been followed.

“Numerous anaesthetic and recovery staff told us that the emergency call alarm system was faulty in the day surgery theatres. We were told that the alarms had become unreliable at the start of recent building works to refurbish one of the theatres and since then the alarms did not function correctly all of the time. This meant that the trust was not compliant with national guidance.” has received a number of enquiries from the public from parents who were worried about the treatment their children received at Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust and to understand where they stood with regards to taking potential claims and complaints forward relating to the experiences there.

"Patient welfare and safety was at increased risk"

Inspectors found that children who were recovering from surgery were being placed at risk because of the lack of available staff to help facilitate their recovery, with some operations even being cancelled altogether due to the shortages.

The report says: “We felt that this ratio of staff for the recovery area was potentially unsafe and meant that patient welfare and safety was at increased risk.”

Malcolm Bower-Brown, CQC’s regional director for the north said: “The problems we identified at the Alder Hey Hospital are very worrying.

We have told the trust where further action must be taken to ensure national standards are met and that patients receive the quality of care they are entitled to expect.

“Inspectors will return to the trust to ensure the necessary improvements have been made.”

In light of the worrying  reports, Louise Shepherd, chief executive of the trust, was quick to state that “there is no evidence that patients have been harmed as a result of these concerns and we remain confident that we are providing a safe service for our children and young people” adding

“The CQC report does raise some questions about the steps Alder Hey takes to ensure patient safety. I would like to reassure all our families that the safety of patients is our highest priority and there are multiple steps we take to ensure the safety of our patients throughout the duration of their care.”

If you or a loved one has experience of potential medical mistreatment or negligence occurring at Alder Hey Children’s NHS Foundation Trust our specialist teams are able to provide you with free advice. was created to listen to talk to people who feel that they had nobody at the NHS to listen to them when something went wrong. Members of the public who call through to us often want to raise an issue within NHS care so that somebody else is not affected the way their and their loved ones have been. Sometimes they call through to us to make a medical negligence claim because a financial settlement is needed to rebuild their life and to take care of their family. If you have experienced a form of medical mistreatment through emergency services, A&E or through surgery, for example, you can speak to the experts at