Patients put at greater risk as hospital trusts ignore safety alerts

Two-thirds of NHS trusts are putting patients at unnecessary risk by failing to comply with safety alerts intended to reduce the risk of death or injury, an investigation has revealed. The alerts were issued by the National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA) in response to accidents in which patients were harmed, and they included instructions designed to minimise risks.

However, one in 14 trusts has not complied with ten or more of these alerts; two general hospital trusts – Worcestershire and York – have failed to comply with 20 alerts. In the case of one extra-urgent "rapid response" alert on oxygen safety in hospitals, 116 trusts which had failed to meet a compliance deadline of 29 March this year had still not taken action by June.

Another alert on the safe use of injectable medicines was issued with a deadline for compliance of 31 March 2008; by June 2010 – more than two years later – 67 trusts had still failed to comply with it.

These figures were obtained from the Department of Health by the charity, Action Against Medical Accidents (AvMA). They follow an earlier AvMA report in February, at which time the ministry wrote to all NHS trusts reminding them of their duty to respond to the alerts. Despite that reminder, AvMA's follow-up investigation found the situation little changed.

It criticised the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the independent health watchdog, for failing to pursue the trusts even when the situation was drawn to its attention. Peter Walsh, AvMA's chief executive, said: "It is quite shocking. But the thing that shocked us most was the complacent attitude. These are life and death issues. Our findings are very worrying."

Following a meeting with AvMA in June, the CQC wrote to those trusts with ten or more alerts still outstanding, demanding an explanation. The CQC said responses from the 29 trusts with the highest number of outstanding alerts showed that most had taken "significant action".

Ian Biggs, CQC's regional director for the South-west, said: "It is not the case that trusts are simply ignoring safety alerts. We are scrutinising all of the trusts' responses and if there is any cause for concern, we will take action and publish our findings."

The widow of one cancer patient who died as a result of a treatment blunder also criticised the CQC. Lisa Richards-Everton's husband, Paul Richards, died in July 2007 at Birmingham Heartlands Hospital. The 35-year-old was given a massive overdose of the drug amphotericin after staff confused two forms of the drug. The NPSA issued a rapid response alert to all hospitals two months later, requiring action by 1 October 2007. But Mrs Richards-Everton discovered that ten trusts had still not complied by February this year; three had still not complied by June.

She said: "I had a recent meeting with the CQC to find out what they are doing about the trusts not complying and, to my horror, I was told nothing had been done about the trusts who are not complying. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. Why are NPSA alerts issued if no one takes any notice?"

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

    Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

    £22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

    Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

    Day In a Page

    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test