One in four hospitals, clinics and care homes in England are failing to meet basic standards for patient safety and quality of care, according to the most comprehensive study of its kind.
The Care Quality Commission’s state of the nation report based on 14,000 unannounced inspections of dentists and NHS, private, and social care run facilities reveal widespread problems with staffing levels, safe medication management and record keeping.
Nursing leaders last night said the report should act as a “wake-up” call to the government amid accusations that ministers had thus far ignored evidence of redundancies, unfilled vacancies and job cuts.
One in 10 services failed to meet legally binding standards for staffing levels which often led to compromises in the care and welfare of patients, as well as limiting training and supervision for staff, the CQC found.
Almost one in five services inspected were failing to safely administer medications with “worrying” examples of risks associated with age, side-effects and drug interactions being poorly managed. Care homes for the elderly and adults with disabilities, which often have no trained nurses or doctors on a day-to-day basis, fared worst. People with complex and multiple medical needs such as dementia or Parkinson’s disease sufferers often reside in these homes.
The deteriorating physical state and suitability of premises was also a particular concern in social care, the inspectors found.
In the private sector proper record keeping was the biggest concern. The CQC inspectors found out of date and incomplete notes about patients, stored in insecure places which could jeopardize patients’ confidentiality.
The CQC says it has taken tough action against failing services, including some closure, and would continue to hold them to account.
Dr Peter Carter, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “It is shocking that more than one in four locations inspected in this report have failed to meet even essential standards of quality and safety… this presents a long overdue wake-up call for the Government. Those locations in question must be brought up to standard as a matter of urgency.”
The report also includes a special focus on maternity services, emerging as a problem area for a number of NHS Trusts due to midwife numbers not keeping pace with the birth rate and increase in complex births.