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London hospital branded 'Unsafe and dirty'


An NHS trust has been issued with three formal warnings after inspectors found “unsafe” conditions including filthy maternity wards and water placed out of the reach of elderly patients.

Barts Health Trust has “failed to protect the safety and welfare of patients” at Whipps Cross University Hospital in Leytonstone, east London, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said.

The trust must now make “urgent improvements”, following unannounced inspections in May and June.

The hospital was failing to meet 10 of the 16 national standards for quality and safety, inspectors found.

On maternity wards, “serious shortfalls” were noted, such as blood-stained equipment, filthy curtains, staff not cleaning their hands and midwives failing to carry out proper checks on newborns.

Resuscitation equipment for babies did not have an oxygen supply and was not checked regularly, while some equipment was not sterile, inspectors found.

“We saw examples of poor care, unacceptable staff behaviour and poor infection control in maternity services,” inspectors said in their report.

“In surgery, theatre processes and communication arrangements put people’s safety at risk.

“Surgery and maternity were both too busy, did not have enough staff to look after people’s needs and lacked bed capacity.

“The management at Whipps Cross are not adequately managing risks in either maternity or surgery.”

During just one visit, inspectors identified “serious shortfalls” in eight out of the 16 essential standards hospitals are required to meet by law.

Staff on postnatal wards were found to be “uncaring”.

The report said: “We saw a woman in a blood-stained gown and bed. About 10 minutes later we saw the same woman crying in the corridor. The midwife on duty asked the woman ‘Why are you crying?’ The woman replied ‘I am in pain’. ‘Pain!’ the midwife repeated in a sarcastic manner.

“The midwife got some medication and handed her a white pot which contained tablets without telling the woman what the tablets were.

“We observed the same midwife bringing the wrong formula milk (as it was different to what the woman had previously been feeding her baby). When asked by the woman, the midwife did not accept she had brought the wrong milk and did not offer the woman the correct alternative.”

Care to mothers was “not always delivered safely” and some babies were admitted to intensive care, “related to a failure by midwives to carry out the correct observations at the right time and escalating matters when required”.

Staff did not wash their hands enough, putting babies, mothers and visitors at risk of infection.

“On the labour ward, there were stainless steel bowls on stands in some delivery rooms. We saw a blood-stained bowl in a delivery room which was described as a room ready for use. We found another room, that a midwife had said was ready for use, had stains on the disposable curtains,” the report said.

Inspectors also found shortages of staff on elderly care wards, including a lack of qualified nurses.

Care plans were not always updated and there was one fall on Bracken ward and 11 falls on Blackthorn ward, mostly at night, in an 11-week period.

While patients were checked for pressure ulcers on admission, inspectors found that five patients acquired ulcers in hospital.

Checks on feeding tubes were also not always carried out properly, the inspectors noted.

There were also problems in A&E with patients spending too long waiting to be seen. The national NHS target is for 95% of patients to be seen within four hours but the hospital has not met this target since November last year.

Between January and March, on 31 occasions patients had to wait more than 60 minutes from the time the ambulance arrived at hospital until a handover was completed, although the hospital said emergency attention was provided on the trolley when required.

The trust has now been told to improve in three key areas: cleanliness and infection control; safety, availability and suitability of equipment; and support given to staff.

Matthew Trainer, regional director of CQC in London, said: “We have very serious concerns about the care and treatment patients have been receiving at Whipps Cross University Hospital.

“The reports we have published today show a systematic catalogue of failings across the departments we looked at during our inspections in May and June,” he said.

“We found that, in places, the hospital was unsafe and dirty, and that staff didn’t always show patients the compassion that people deserve.”

In a statement, the trust apologised and said it was making “urgent improvements” to patient safety and standards of care at Whipps Cross University Hospital following the CQC inspections.

Barts Health chief executive Peter Morris said: “We are extremely sorry for the failings in some of our services at Whipps Cross Hospital. We have taken immediate action to rectify the failures to ensure we meet standards across the hospital at all times.”

He cited the trust’s “Great Expectations” maternity programme, which has recently been introduced to support the improvement of training and care standards, and said all 500 staff working on elderly care wards were following an intensive “Excellence in Older People’s Care” programme.  

In addition, a Care Campaign was launched this month, to reinforce environment and cleaning standards, the importance of patient and staff feedback and ensuring team meetings, appraisals and supervision are in place in all clinical areas.  

Barts Health chief nurse Professor Kay Riley said: “Our care campaign is our opportunity to relentlessly focus on patients’ best interests, to keep patients safe and to create a climate of care where we are open and candid, we relentlessly pursue excellence and all our staff are compassionate, caring and committed.”


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Readers' comments (23)

  • Scrap the CQC! Who needs them? The answers to all problems with health care are as simple as they are unfundable, we need more nurses, more HCA's, more doctors, bigger and more modern hospitals and a population that understands how to look after its own health! Having whining bureaucrats telling us that this is dirty and that is unsafe doesn't help! It just adds to the misery.

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  • actually - there is no need at all for more funds, there is no shortage at all of money - but a huge shortage of ability to be efficient with that money. The last government DOUBLED the amount coming in the the NHS. it is NOT about money. How about a bit of easy to fix care and attention and less time looking at iphones and chatting nurses stations?. The responsibility for all the people who receive substanbdard care and attention lies totally with every single person who walks past the bed of a patient in need and does nothing to help them. We all know it goes on and to keep blaming people higher up and faceless is unacceptable. The care starts with the person supposed to be holding the patients hand and telling them we are there to help!

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  • So well said Anonymous 14 august at 12:50pm :
    Please stop blaming people higher up - it's not solving the problems we face every day.
    The problems, all of them, lie with our nurse managers, and our colleagues. The buck stops with the people who are with the patients - nurses. It is up to us to have the guts to tell our colleagues that are letting our profession down & giving us a bad name, that we will report them. I prefer peace of mind at work ahead of money.

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  • Some times money helps but you can't buy a caring attitude. Sarcastic midwives treating new mums like dirt? Yes well I've been on the receiving end of that and I would sack them.

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  • I suppose once you have run out of groups of people to blame, apart from the patients, you have to find something else such as the money first of all, and then each in their turn various other material resources, and perhaps even the localities.

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  • Anonymous | 14-Aug-2013 12:50 pm

    I agree that no more money is needed. Proper management of existing funds would provide the level of staffing and resources required. Much as you may like to deny it, those in senior positions are largely to blame and to ignore that by foisting the total blame onto nurses is unacceptable. I also, to an extent, blame nurses for the lack of action they have taken to stand up for the rights of their patients and themselves. I speak of the many who do not take their breaks and waste hours staying behind to complete their work. This hides the reality of chronic staffing levels and leads to nurses taking the hit for every fault found within any NHS Trust. A win win situation for the government and management. Of course there are nurses who fall below the standard, but the overwhelming majority provide excellent care under increasingly difficult conditions. My wish is that they take a leaf out of their Aussie colleagues book and take to the streets in massed protest to improve these conditions. I think that there would be a widespread wake up call and realisation of the fantastic job done by the majority of nursing professionals. Bash away. But you'll miss us when we are gone. I guarantee it.

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  • In my experience as a nurse in Intensive Care and as a Business Consultant iworking on the Frontline Connect Programme for NPfIT I am always amazed at the lack of personal accountability and integrity.
    Having experienced both bad medical and nursing practice and having brought these to the attention of the individuals and their managers I was surprised that little action was taken or that critisms were not acted upon. Just about every report into the failings of the NHS find that individuals have not acted as they should. If everyone involved treated their patients / carers as they would like to be treated, the care would improve, litigation would fall and the available money, linked to proper processes would suffice.

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  • Pussy

    That's rich coming from them!! Do- gooders and clueless,just another government quango to keep the public happy!GET RID ASAP!

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  • Waken up everyone, if you have staff who are uncaring in the profession then they need to go immediately. This would start with the management(they do not care about anyone apart from themselves especially Nurses who trick the NMC into thinking they still practice and register each year that needs to be looked into as well) then work down the chain. The profession is putting itself into risk of being not trusted by anyone

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  • Waken up everyone, if you have staff who are uncaring in the profession then they need to go immediately. This would start with the management(they do not care about anyone apart from themselves especially Nurses who trick the NMC into thinking they still practice and register each year that needs to be looked into as well) then work down the chain. The profession is putting itself into risk of being not trusted by anyone

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

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