An Essex hospital has been slammed by a health regulator after inspectors found its children’s services were “completely unacceptable”.
A shortage of paediatric doctors and nurses meant some sick children taken to Basildon Hospital waited more than an hour to see a doctor. Others deteriorated on the ward during evenings and weekends without proper treatment.
Out of date medicines were found by the Care Quality Commission inspectors on 3 November - a visit triggered by several serious clinical incidents including the death of a little girl following a suspected drug error.
The CQC has ordered Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals Foundation Trust to commission an independent investigation into its paediatric services. The trust has been issued with two warnings and has eight weeks to significantly improve - or else face a raft of sanctions that could include fines and prosecution.
Patient safety groups will expect the CQC to come down hard on the Trust if it fails to improve as this is the second set of warnings about substandard care in five months. In July inspectors found serious concerns about the quality of care in A&E and adult wards, but they were satisfied with the improvements made.
Andrea Gordon, CQC deputy director of operations, said: “What our inspectors found at the trust on 3 November was completely unacceptable. It is imperative that the trust now ensures it makes changes which are sustainable, embedded and maintained for the future.”
Peter Walsh, chief executive of Action against Medical Accidents, said: “It is extremely worrying that in spite of earlier warnings from the CQC, this trust has continued to fall down on essential standards designed to protect patients. One has to question whether the CQC is being taken seriously enough and whether it is being robust enough with trusts in breach of essential standards of quality and safety. Trust management should be made accountable for their continued failings and there must be full transparency with patients who have been or who potentially could be affected.”
These latest problems raise serious concerns about whether there are deep seated problems at the trust which will need thorough investigation to ensure other departments are not affected.
Staff had complained about a lack of senior doctors and nurses on the children’s ward, but there was no evidence of any effective response. There has been a significant drop in paediatric consultants recently, and nurses said there were “considerable delays” in getting doctors to see children after 5pm and at weekends
The trust was also found to be failing to plan and deliver care to meet the needs of children in a way that ensured their welfare and safety.
The CQC said it and Monitor - the regulator for Foundation Trusts - would have close contact with the independent investigation team throughout and promised to hold the trust board to account over improving services.
Clare Panniker, Chief Executive of BTUH, said several immediate changes had been made including more senior staff on duty at all time and weekly unannounced spot checks to monitor clinical standards and medicine expiry dates.
She added: “I want to assure the local community that we are absolutely committed to improving the standards of care which we deliver to children… We need to do better to ensure that every child who comes to Basildon Hospital gets good, high quality, safe care only by doing this will we address the CQC’s concerns.”