Reports out this week have highlighted failings in maternity care as well as general patient safety with the latest published findings coming from the Care Quality Commission (CQC). Following failings in care over recent years, inspection standards have been tightened and the most recent assessments have been undertaken following the new inspection measures.
Inspectors from the CQC have inspected 79 trusts so far, as part of a 2 year inspection programme and have found patient safety issues in three-quarters of them. The trusts inspected first were those deemed most at risk. In addition, the CQC inspected care and nursing homes and GP services. Over 40% of care and nursing homes and home care services and around one in three GP services had safety issues.
Understaffing is a significant problem emerging from the inspections but it is particular concern that where safety has fallen below a reasonable standard and an incident of patient harm has arisen lessons are not being learnt from the experience.
The CQC considers that the culture of hospitals may play a part in the weight given by trusts to patient safety and far from being the responsibility of those delivering care only that failings are a leadership issue:
David Behan CQC Chief Executive said:
‘If the leadership says the important things around here are quality and safety, then that’s what people attend to.’
While understaffing is an issue, the underlying cause of this is lack of finances to ensure that hospitals are properly resourced and so far this year the deficit is approaching a figure of £1 billion for the NHS. The Royal College of Nursing general secretary has called for more investment in training and keeping nurses and ensuring their voices are heard.
Katherine Rake, Chief Executive of Healthwatch England highlighted the need to learn from mistakes, saying:
‘We would now like to see all services operate with the right culture of openness and transparency when things go wrong.’
However, the Government seem to be seeking more for less, with negotiations currently underway to radically overhaul the way in which junior doctors are paid and attempts to impose a 7 day working week floundering in the face of fierce opposition from doctors’ leaders, particularly at the junior end.
Austerity measures applied to the NHS are causing immense strain in all areas and unless the Government act swiftly to inject more cash into vital services, as hospitals and healthcare providers enter the busy winter period, there is grave concern about whether standards can be properly maintained. Sadly there is a human cost to the lack of funding with dedicated staff suffering their own health issues through the stressful nature of the job and patients suffering avoidable harm.
If you or your family have been affected by any of the issues in this article, please contact a member of our Clinical Negligence Team on 0800 316 8892