Stafford Hospital Negligence Investigation: what’s going on at the hospital trusts?
The scandal at Stafford Hospital sent shockwaves through the NHS after an estimated 400 to 1,200 patients died needlessly between January 2005 and March 2009. In the ensuing fall-out 14 other hospital trusts were named as being under investigation due to their abnormally high death rates.
The news will have made worrying reading for patients up and down the country who rely on the services provided by the hospitals under the spotlight. The experts at Hospital Negligence have handled countless cases relating to poor care against hospitals in England and Wales, including some within those trusts under investigation.
In this article, we take a look at the position at each of the trusts to help patients be fully informed of the situation they are facing.
What is the Stafford Hospital scandal?
Poor care caused the avoidable deaths of hundreds of patients at Stafford Hospital in what has been described as the worst NHS scandal in living memory. A public inquiry was chaired by Robert Francis QC and his damning report followed in February 2013, which made almost 300 recommendations for NHS reform. This included a statutory duty of candour which would force all healthcare professionals to be open and honest about mistakes and risks to patient safety. The story made headlines across the country but the saga was not to end with Stafford. In the aftermath of the scandal 14 other hospital trusts were named and shamed for death rates that were worryingly high as it was announced that they too would be put under investigation by NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh.
Between July 2011 and June 2012 there were 2,151 patient deaths recorded at Colchester General Hospital and Essex County Hospital, according to the East Anglian Daily Times, 16 per cent higher than predicted. Despite this the trust has stated that the number of deaths at both hospitals have been falling year-on-year. Its chief executive Dr Gordon Coutts has also commented that it has seen encouraging improvements in the patient experience and the results from an alternative mortality indicator are within the expected range.
Tameside Hospital in Greater Manchester is another hospital said to have one of the worst mortality rates in the country. This is according to the Summary Hospital-level Mortality Indicator (SHMI) for the previous two years, as reported by the Manchester Evening News (MEN).While its chief executive said that a different indicator has shown improvements she confirmed that she is committed to working with Sir Bruce Keogh to address the situation. Tameside Hospital has hit the headlines several times in recent months for issues such as bed shortages and allegations of poor care from patients. This includes the family of Brian Wade, who died from colitis, a severe but treatable inflammation of the colon, two days after his 69th birthday in 2009, according to the MEN.
In Blackpool the announced investigation at the town's teaching hospitals NHS Foundation Trust was welcomed by local families concerned about its track record, according to the Blackpool Gazette. The trust ascertained that an independent review it commissioned into its mortality rates found there were no areas for concern over patient care and that in the last 12 months a significant amount of work had been undertaken by the trust. However Lucia Frankitt, whose husband died after developing an infection following routine surgery at Blackpool Victoria Hospital told the paper the investigation should have been done a long time ago.
Basildon and Thurcock trust is the second in Essex to be placed under investigation by Sir Bruce Keogh. Around the same time that the announcement was made it also came to light that blundering surgeons had removed the wrong part of a patient's lung. The Daily Mail reported that surgeons removed the bottom section of the woman's lung rather than the top, a serious error that is known as 'wrong site surgery'. The mistake was blamed on an issue with the patient's medical notes. The incident followed an unannounced investigation prompted by a number of serious incidents involving the care of children at the trust. A spokeswoman said that the trust is working hard to improve its mortality rates, although she said that they were 'within the expected range for their demographic'.
Mortality rates at Burnley and Blackburn Hospitals prompted an investigation into the trust that governs them - East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust. In a statement the trust said that it took the announcement 'very seriously' and welcomed the independent review. However issues with care at the hospital were highlighted just a week after the news broke about the investigation with the case of Linda Renshaw. Linda's family told the Daily Mail that she died from lung cancer after the Royal Blackburn Hospital failed to follow up on an X-ray that showed the early signs of the disease.
MPs in North Cumbria united to call for change to hospital care in the region after it was announced that the number of patient deaths would be put under investigation at North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust. The MPs also urged those involved in a planned acquisition of the trust by Northumbria Healthcare to ensure it is completed as soon as possible, according to the Times and Star newspaper. The MPs told the paper that a new management team is needed to deal with 'incredibly serious issues'. It was recently reported that emergency departments run by the trust were so busy that patients were left waiting up to 10 hours for admittance. The trust is responsible for services at the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle and the West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven. It also runs a birthing centre at Penrith Community Hospital.
United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust is responsible for the Pilgrim Hospital, in Boston, Grantham and District Hospital and Lincoln County Hospital. Not long after it was announced that the trust was one of those under investigation over fears 500 patients may have died needlessly it was revealed that NHS boss Sir David Nicholson was warned four years ago about problems there (Daily Mail). The newspaper claimed that a leaked letter from a doctor alleged that a patient died after a surgeon was forced to perform three 'radical procedures' on the same day due to the pressure of targets. The trust became the centre of the debate on NHS whistleblowing after the former chief executive said there was a culture of 'fear and oppression'. A spokesperson dismissed allegations that agreements had been made to stop people from raising concerns about patient care.
George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust in Warwickshire
The George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust is one of three in the Midlands under investigation for high death rates. According to the Coventry Telegraph, last year chief executive Kevin McGee admitted that its mortality figures were 'unacceptably high after data showed that 20 per cent more people died than would be expected at the hospital between April 2011 and March 2012. However in January Mr McGee said that death rates are within 'expected limits' and the measures they had taken are working.
The Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust has responsibility for Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Amersham Hospital and a series of community services provided across the county. The Bucks Free Press reported at the beginning of February that an elderly man had died at the trust's Wycombe Hospital after staff wrongly fed him meals on the ward, causing him to develop aspiration pneumonia. In a statement the trust said that it takes patient safety very seriously and that it had focused its efforts on finding out why it had recorded a higher than average Hospital Standardised Mortality Ratio for the past two years. It added that action plans had been put in place and they had seen improvements as a result.
Northern Lincolnshire and Goole Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Prime Minister David Cameron reassured patients who rely on services provided by Northern Lincolnshire and Goole Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in the House of Commons, according to the This is Scunthorpe website. Barton MP Martin Vickers asked Mr Cameron whether he could give assurances that the trust responsible for Scunthorpe Hospital would implement the recommendations from the investigation in full. Mr Cameron said that he could and that the inquiry would get to the bottom of any hospital with an unnaturally high death rate.
The Dudley Group in the West Midlands
In the wake of the announced investigation into the Dudley Group in the West Midlands, chief executive Paula Clark said that current independent analysis shows that the trust is in the 'expected range' for mortality rations. She stated: 'Overall the number of deaths continues to decline against a backdrop of an ageing population with complex health needs. We take mortality indices very seriously and use them as a flag for further reviews of our care. The group is made up of three hospital sites and serves more than 400,000 people living in Dudley and the surrounding areas. Ms Clarke added that she would like to reassure those patients and families that the trust will do everything in its power to ensure patients are safe and well cared for. In May 2012 the news broke that British composer Andrew Downes was left wheelchair-bound after staff at the trust's Russells Hall Hospital failed to diagnose a fractured back.
Mansfield MP Sir Alan Meale has demanded 'immediate action' from Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which is responsible for the area's King's Mill Hospital after it was announced that it is under investigation. Chad.co.uk reported that Sir Alan was shocked at the news but placed the blame on the current senior management. The news website revealed in January that the Care Quality Commission (CQC) had already contacted the trust regarding high death rates from septicaemia. Eric Morton, chief executive of the trust welcomed the investigation and said that the quality and safety of services is paramount.
According to Kent online, Medway NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Medway Maritime Hospital in Gillingham, came in the bottom 12 of all 145 English hospital trusts last November. Meanwhile the website states that figures released in 2011 showed that the hospital had 1,745 deaths in a year – 238 more than expected. A spokesperson for the trust said it was doing everything possible to understand the causes of its higher than average mortality rates. In February 2012 the BBC revealed that the trust was one of four in Kent that had seen the amount of compensation paid out for medical negligence claims double in the last seven years.
According to the Birmingham Post, the Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust was previously revealed to be one of five in the Midlands among the worst in the UK for death rates. The Department of Health figures showed that the Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust had 1,257 deaths from April 2010 to March 2011, compared to 1,121 that were expected. The trust will need to show local people that despite what appears to be a persistent problem strong action will be taken to rectify any issues identified. The trust provides services from four main sites: Queen's Hospital, the Treatment Centre, Samuel Johnson Community Hospital and Sir Robert Peel Community Hospital.