Safety at four in five UK hospital trusts not good enough: review

Safety at four in five hospital trusts in England is not good enough, according to a leading hospital inspector.

Sir Mike Richards, the Care Quality Commission's (CQC) chief inspector of hospitals said safety remained a "real concern". His remarks follow the first round of new inspections of England's 136 acute non-specialist trusts and all 18 specialist trusts.

He said that National Health Service (NHS) stood on a ''burning platform'' and the need for change was clear.

He went on to caution that the model of acute hospital care, which once worked well for the NHS "cannot continue to meet the needs of today's population".

However, according to the inspectors, some of the problems were beyond the control of hospitals due to rising demands they were expected to meet.

Sir Mike added that there was a "wide variation in quality" between hospitals and between services within the same hospital.

He added that inspectors had come across pockets of "very poor quality care" in good hospitals.

More than half of specialist trusts (53 per cent) had been rated as requiring improvement in terms of safety.

The authors of the report wrot, "We are also concerned that some may be over-reliant on their reputation and not assuring themselves of the quality of care they are delivering."

The review of all 136 hospital trusts in the country rated 11 per cent as inadequate on safety and 70 per cent required improvement.

The review pointed out a number of problems:

  • Bed occupancy rates exceeded recommended levels on a routine basis
  • Patients with life-threatening conditions such as sepsis and kidney injuries received poor care
  • Patients had to wait for long for operations, such as knee and hip replacements
  • Shortage of nurses in medial and elderly care wards, midwives in maternity units and doctors in accident and emergency (A&Es)

According to Sir Mike, "transformational change" was possible, even in "the most challenging of circumstances".

However, in support of hospitals he said, the scale of the challenge that hospitals now faced was unprecedented - rising demand coupled with economic pressures were creating difficult-to-manage situations that were putting patient care at risk.