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Monthly Archives: September 2013

Basildon Hospital ‘failed patients’ over legionella cases

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A hospital criticised over high mortality rates failed to protect patients from a fatal legionella infestation, a court has heard.

Two patients died in 2007 and 2010 after contracting Legionnaires’ disease at Basildon Hospital in Essex. Six more were infected during the same period.

The hospital admitted failings under the Health and Safety at Work Act in January and is expected to be sentenced at Chelmsford Crown Court on Wednesday.

It said it “apologised unreservedly”.

The charge the hospital is being sentenced for relates to a breach of Section 3 of the Health & Safety at Work Act over failing to protect visitors and patients.

James Compton, 74, from Billericay, died at the hospital in 2007, and Raymond Cackett, 54, from South Ockendon, died in 2010.

‘Fell short’

Prosecutor Pascal Bates said the hospital, one of 14 named by NHS England medical director Professor Sir Bruce Keogh’s report into abnormally high numbers of deaths, had been battling the disease, which effects the lungs, for up to 15 years.

But despite a previous prosecution following a death in 2002 managers took insufficient steps to protect the public, the sentencing hearing was told.

Legionella bacteriaThe hospital said no cases of Legionnaire’s disease, which attacks the lungs, had occurred since 2011.

Mr Bates said: “This wasn’t a situation where for a brief period of time the hospital followed advice from a particular consultant which later turned out to be wrong.

“This was a lengthy period of time during which the hospital fell short of its responsibilities and failed its patients.”

The court heard the hospital cut spending on chemical treatment of the water system in 2006 and 2007 in an “inappropriate cost saving measure”.

Shower heads and thermostatic mixing valves, which can contribute to the spread of legionella, were not properly cleaned, the hearing was told.

Other errors included “super heating” hot water pipes in an attempt to kill the bug – a measure which could have inadvertently caused the bacteria to proliferate in cold water pipes which ran alongside.

The court heard subsequent risk assessments may have been an exercise in minimising legal culpability rather than protecting patients.

Iain Daniels, mitigating on behalf of the Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “The hospital apologises unreservedly for the chronic colonisation of its water systems over this period.

“The trust acknowledges it failed to provide a safe environment but this has not been through a want of effort, funds or desire.”

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Revealed: the best NHS hospitals according to the public’s priorities

The best NHS hospitals according to the public’s priorities – MHP Health Mandate has published the first ever overall assessment of NHS hospital quality in England, based on what matters most to people.

The Quality Index has been published as part of Quality at a glance: Using aggregate measures to assess the quality of NHS hospitals and is MHP Health Mandate’s contribution to the ongoing debate about how best to measure quality in the NHS.

The 10 highest performing trusts on the Index are:

1.       West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust

2.       The Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

3.       Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust

4.       Kettering General Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

5.       Frimley Park Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

6.       Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust

7.       Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Trust

8.       Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust

9.       The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

10.   South Devon Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

The 10 lowest performing trusts on the Index are:

137.    Lewisham Healthcare NHS Trust

138.    Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust

139.    Warrington and Halton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

140.    Croydon Health Services NHS Trust

141.    St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust

142.    Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust

143.    Tameside Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

144.    Barts Health NHS Trust

145.    North West London Hospitals NHS Trust

146.    Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust

Key findings from ‘Quality at a glance’ include:

• Many of the lowest performing trusts on the Quality Index are subject to regulatory intervention. For example Barking, Havering and Redbridge and Croydon have been found to be missing key standards

• Foundation Trust status is a good indicator of high performance on the Quality Index. Only seven out of 37 trusts (19%) in the top quarter do not have Foundation Trust status. Conversely, 24 out of the 37 trusts (65%) in the bottom quarter do not have Foundation Trust status

• Patient experience and waiting times matter most to the public. In a poll of the British public conducted by ComRes, nearly one quarter (23%) of respondents said that the factor they considered to be most important when deciding which hospital to have an operation in was the number of patients who said that they had a good experience of care at the hospital. One fifth of respondents (20%) placed greatest importance on how long they would have to wait for an operation

• Condition-specific ratings (eg about cancer or maternity services) will be more useful to patients in making informed decisions about their care than general ratings. An overall rating is not a good substitute for a condition-specific assessment of quality

Quality at a glance makes fourteen recommendations on how aggregate quality ratings should be developed, presented, communicated and used to improve the quality of care delivered by hospitals in the NHS.

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