Clean up your act or face sanctions, CQC tells London hospital


A hospital in east London described as "unsafe and dirty" has been told it could be penalised if it does not make rapid improvements to its care services.

Hospital Complaints

According to a Care Quality Commission (CQC) review, maternity patients at Leytonstone's Whipps Cross hospital had to contend with dirty floors and overflowing waste bins, while mothers and infants were exposed to infection risks.

Unannounced CQC visits

Following a number of unannounced visits, the NHS regulator also found serious issues in the hospital's surgical and elderly care units.

The watchdog has now formally served the hospital's operator, Bart's Health NHS Trust (BHNHST), with 3 warnings. If the trust does not comply with "urgent improvements", it could face senior management dismissals.


Matthew Trainer of the CQC said its review revealed a "systematic catalogue of failings" during a series of inspections during May and June.

"We found that, in places, the hospital was unsafe and dirty, and that staff didn't always show patients the compassion that people deserve. Patients were not receiving the care and support they should have been able to expect. In some cases, this was putting them at risk of harm."

Among the failings at Whipps Cross was a lack of triage doctors forcing women into 4-hour waits for treatment at a labour unit. Care wards for the elderly were also badly affected by staff shortages, with water often out of reach and patients unable to obtain essential help with eating.

No compassion

The report found that staff did not always show "the compassion that people deserve", with specialist paediatricians often unavailable to man life-support systems in surgical units.

The CQC also found death rates following surgery at Whipps Cross exceeded national averages. In the 6 months prior to the watchdog's visits, the hospital's A&E unit had failed to treat 95% of patients within the national guideline target of 4 hours.

The CQC has identified 6 hospital trusts as "high risk", of which BHNHST is one. According to a recently-devised system under the regulator's new chief inspector of hospitals, Sir Mike Richards, the trust will be inspected again ahead of Christmas.

However, to check on progress in implementing change, the watchdog has promised to swoop unannounced on Whipps Cross "soon".

Immediate action needed

Apologising to patients for the "failings in some of our services at Whipps Cross hospital", BHNHST insists it is improving care standards and patient safety. CEO Peter Morris said: "We have taken immediate action to rectify the failures to ensure we meet standards across the hospitals at all times."

Since the CQC findings, BHNHST has promised to run a refreshed training regime for its elderly care and maternity staff. Senior managers are being seconded from other areas of the trust to Whipps Cross, with changes being made to maternity ward procedures.

Simpson Millar LLP's Neil Fearn, a specialist in medical negligence claims, said the CQC findings at Whipps Cross are all too familiar.

Claims can only mount"

"This is yet another in a catalogue of NHS errors, where inadequate staffing is leading to prolonged patient suffering and an excessive mortality rate," Neil said. "If ministers do not properly respond to findings such as these, claims for medical negligence can only mount."

Neil added that if anyone has received poor hospital care, they may be entitled to claim for medical negligence. "If this is the case, specialist legal advice is an essential ingredient in pursuing a successful claim."

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