Whipps Cross Hospital Deemed 'Unsafe and Dirty' by CQC Inspectors

14 August 2013

Whipps Cross Hospital Deemed 'Unsafe and Dirty' by CQC Inspectors

Unannounced inspections undertaken during May and June 2013 by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) confirmed what many patients and their loved ones who have called through to Mistreatment.com have stated-that there are serious, systemic and underlying shortfalls in the patient care provided at Whipps Cross Hospital, part of Whipps Cross University Hospital in Leytonstone, part of the Barts Health NHS Trust.

The CQC inspections uncovered serious flaws in the level of patient care in the maternity ward, elderly care and surgical wards in particular. The overall finding by the NHS watchdog in its damning report was that the maternity ward was “dirty and unsafe” and three formal warnings were issued to the trust warning that it must make urgent improvements or face sanctions that could extend to senior managers being removed from their posts by the health service regulator Monitor.

Matthew Trainer, the regional director of the CQC for London, said: “The reports we have published today show a systematic catalogue of failings across the departments we looked at during our inspections in May and June. We found that, in places, the hospital was unsafe and dirty, and that staff didn’t always show patients the compassion that people deserve. Patients were not receiving the care and support they should have been able to expect – and in some cases, this was putting them at risk of harm.”

In light of intensive scrutiny of the level of healthcare throughout the NHS, the inspectors reported cases of women in the maternity ward having to wait up to four hours to be seen at a labour ward given the lack of doctors available in the triage area. Staffing issues were not exclusive to the maternity ward, however, and were a feature of the care in elderly care wards where the CQC had to actively involve their own inspectors during an incident where an elderly patient could not access water which was left out of reach. The CQC added that staff did not show “the compassion that people deserve”. In the surgery department, clinicians trained in specialist paediatric life support were not always available and staffing on two wards was “inadequate”.

On maternity wards, inspectors found evidence of blood-stained equipment, filthy curtains, staff who had not sanitised their their hands and midwives who failed to undertake proper checks on newborns. At the same time resuscitation equipment for babies did not have an oxygen supply and was not checked regularly, while some equipment was not sterile.

What was particularly alarming about the CQC inspections on this occasion was the stark veracity of what patients had to say to the inspectors themselves and what they witnessed.

The report said: "We saw a woman in a blood-stained gown and bed. About 10 minutes later we saw the same woman crying in the corridor.

"The midwife on duty asked the woman 'Why are you crying?' The woman replied 'I am in pain'. 'Pain!' the midwife repeated in a sarcastic manner.

"The midwife got some medication and handed her a white pot which contained tablets without telling the woman what the tablets were.

"We observed the same midwife bringing the wrong formula milk (as it was different to what the woman had previously been feeding her baby). When asked by the woman, the midwife did not accept she had brought the wrong milk and did not offer the woman the correct alternative."

On the labour wards, the theatre sluice pipe had previously leaked onto the floor.

"We saw visible dried stains on that sluice pipe and floor," inspectors said.

Statistical evidence buttressed the poor levels of care found during inspections in that surgery mortality rates at the hospital were higher than national averages, as concluded by the CQC inspectors, and in the six months before the inspections, the hospital’s accident and emergency department had failed to meet national targets to see 95 per cent of patients within four hours.

The CQC is adamant that while change must progress as a matter of urgency, it will return again in the near future-unannounced-to scrutinise the hospital to see if the urgent improvements have been carried out. In the meantime Barts Health NHS has apologised to patients and said it was making “urgent improvements to patient safety and standards of care”.

“Barts Health is committed to ensuring the safety and welfare of every one of our patients and we are extremely sorry for the failings in some of our services at Whipps Cross Hospital,” trust chief executive Peter Morris said. “We have taken immediate action to rectify the failures to ensure we meet standards across the hospitals at all times.”

The trust has pledged to run enhanced training courses for all maternity and elderly care staff; senior managers are being drafted in to Whipps Cross from other parts of the trust; and processes on maternity wards have been changed.

Barts Health NHS Trust is already under scrutiny by chief inspector of hospitals Professor Sir Mike Richards.

It is one of 18 trusts being examined due to potential risks to patients, and is one of five on the list, announced in July, that is considered to be "high risk".

Royal College of Nursing (RCN) London regional director Bernell Bussue opined: "It's deeply concerning to see these failures in relation to basic standards of infection control, hygiene, waiting times and providing adequate food and drink."

If you or a loved one have been to Whipps Cross Hospital and have received substandard patient care, you can call Mistreatment.com to better understand what your patient rights are and to speak to an experienced advisor about what you can do. Our specialists have wide experience of providing advice and support across a number of areas relating to potential medical mistreatment, such as misdiagnosis and delay and surgery errors, for example.