Unsafe conditions uncovered by inspections at Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals Foundation Trust should have been reported by staff, the trust’s nursing director has said.
Maggie Rogers told Nursing Times: “We rely on the staff and teams to escalate anything they are not happy with because they are essentially accountable.
“There is no doubt if somebody had escalated that level of hygiene deficit we would have acted on it.”
Ms Rogers said reporting the problems was a joint responsibility of clinical and facilities staff at all levels.
However, she acknowledged: “It has to be the board [that is responsible] and all our statements have acknowledged that.”
Ms Rogers claimed that problems reported by the Care Quality Commission – including blood-stained curtains, a lack of privacy for patients and equipment past its use-by date – did not reflect the trust as a whole. She added that said she had been working to increase nurse numbers for several years and hoped to fill all positions next year.
Nursing Times reported in July that the trust had recruited 15 nurses from south Asia because of problems recruiting. At the time a spokeswoman said retaining staff was difficult because Basildon is close to London, but has no London pay weighting.
Her comments came as the Nursing and Midwifery Council announced it was considering action against the trust’s nurses and nurse leaders.
The NMC will carry out an inspection at the trust later this week, which is only the second of its kind, and could also result in it being prevented from taking trainees.
The regulator said it has asked the CQC, health information firm Dr Foster and foundation regulator Monitor for their evidence “patient safety may have been compromised due to poor nursing or midwifery care”.
NMC chief executive and registrar Professor Dickon Weir-Hughes said it would then decide “what appropriate courses of action should be taken”. The NMC confirmed this could include fitness to practise cases.
The NMC said the only comparable intervention was an inspection at the North West London Hospitals Trust in 2005 which, prompted by a damning Healthcare Commission report on maternity services, resulted in trainees being removed.
A spokesman said: “What has alarmed us is that people from all levels have come to us [since the news reports] and said, ‘We have known there have been problems for months.’”