HEALTH watchdogs have imposed urgent sanctions on a hospital trust after inspectors found patients on one unit had no direct access to showers or proper meals.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has taken the unprecedented action against the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust after branding failings at Pinderfields Hospital, Wakefield, as “completely unacceptable.”
Hospital staff turned whistleblowers to alert the commission to the fact patients did not have proper washing facilities and were cleaning themselves using disposable cardboard bowls.
The patients were being kept on a day ward for long term care without the proper resources meaning there was no emergency lighting on the unit so all main lights were switched on if patients were admitted in the early hours.
During an unannounced visit on September 5, inspectors also found some patients stayed on the day ward for more than four days and were only being fed with sandwiches and microwave dinners as there were no proper catering facilities on the unit.
Patients had no bedside storage and some belongings were left strewn on the floor. There was also unsecured access from the unit to an operating theatre next to the ward.
The commission has now imposed a legal restriction on the hospital trust, which faces financial penalties if patients are kept on the day care unit for more than 23 hours.
Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust chiefs said between mid July and the end of August this year, 30 patients stayed in the day ward for more than 23 hours.
It said it has already taken action to remedy the commission’s concerns.
A spokesman said patients on the ward now have access to the same food as any other ward in the hospital.
Bedside lockers and lights have been installed and workers now need a swipe card to access the theatre. There are also plans to make improvements to the washing facilities.
Stephen Eames, interim chief executive of the trust, said: “We would like to apologise to any patient whose experience on the day surgical unit may have fallen below the high standards we would expect.
“To our knowledge no patients have come to harm as a result of an inpatient stay on this unit. We do accept that the facilities and environment on this unit were not entirely suitable for inpatients and we are in the process of making significant improvements so it can be used for short stays.
“The concerns raised by the CQC relate to the facilities and physical environment of the unit for patients spending more than 23 hours there.
“They do not relate to the levels of staffing on the unit or the quality of care given by our staff which patients told the CQC was very good.”
Mr Eames added: “We have not been routinely using the day surgical unit for inpatient stays over 23 hours. This happens as part of an escalation policy which enables us to find extra capacity in the hospital for low risk inpatients in times of high demand.
“This escalation policy is in place because there is a serious knock-on effect of not managing demand for beds properly. The last thing we want is patients waiting on trolleys in accident and emergency or in ambulances and this is what the escalation policy seeks to avoid.”
Mr Eames confirmed the CQC launched the unannounced inspection after receiving anonymous information from hospital staff.