‘High risk’ Yorkshire hospitals face probe into care

Jeremy HuntJeremy Hunt
Jeremy Hunt
TWO more NHS trusts in Yorkshire are facing root-and-branch investigations into concerns about their standards.

In a report, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) revealed that hospitals in Leeds and Hull were among a quarter of 160 trusts nationwide classed as being at raised risk of providing poor care against more than 150 key indicators.

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust is among 24 at highest risk due to higher rates of the potentially deadly bug Clostridium difficile and problems training doctors – although death rates at its hospitals are well below the national average.

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Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust is among a further 20 in a second tier at less high risk, mainly owing to concerns over death rates and treatment standards in some areas.

Both are criticised for high numbers of whistleblowing alerts by staff and potential under-reporting of patient safety incidents. Lower numbers of staff also recommend their hospitals as places to work or be treated.

The two join the Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust, which is in special measures due to worse-than-expected death rates, as classed among the highest-risk trusts in the region.

NHS chiefs welcomed the investigations in January but doctors’ leaders warned hospitals were “buckling” under pressure from deep cost-cutting.

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The CQC said its analysis aimed to identify trusts which needed rapid inspections. Each will be given ratings of outstanding, good, requiring improvement or inadequate.

British Medical Association chairman Mark Porter said: “It goes without saying that where trusts are found to be operating below par we urgently need to identify where the problems lie and find a solution.

“The fact is many trusts are buckling under extreme financial pressure. Many hospitals are stretched to breaking point. If we are to deliver the improvements patients and doctors want to see, the Government needs to address the significant funding gap in the NHS.”

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt dismissed claims funding cuts were to blame for poor care, although he accepted the commission’s findings were worrying.

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“But what the public should be reassured by is, first of all, we are never again going to have a situation where the NHS knows information that the public doesn’t,” he added.

“Secondly, we have introduced a very rigorous inspection regime which means that each one of these hospitals will be inspected very soon and we will really get to the bottom if there is a problem, and if there is we will put them into special measures and sort it out.”

In a statement, bosses in Leeds said: “Our hospitals have significantly lower than the average mortality rates and our staff work hard to provide good quality care to our patients, and we hope this will be apparent when the first wave of inspections take place in January. Action plans have been put in place and there has been good progress in making improvements, but we fully accept there is more to do.”

Phil Morley, chief executive at the Hull and East Yorkshire trust, said the inspection had been ordered as part of its move towards elite foundation status and it looked forward to demonstrating its readiness for the change.

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“Clearly, any perceived areas of risk are of concern to us, so we are keen to review these alongside the CQC in a couple of months and determine what action, if any, is necessary to address them,” he said.

Six trusts in the region – two in Sheffield, South Tees, Airedale, Barnsley and Harrogate – were rated among those at lowest risk in the country.