Hospital care ‘has failed to improve’

Hospitals have made “no improvement” in monitoring the quality of patient care in light of the Mid Staffordshire scandal and “no improvement” in keeping patients safe or treating them with dignity, a major report has said.

Stafford General Hospital was at the centre of a care crisis earlier this year
Stafford General Hospital was at the centre of a care crisis earlier this year

Poor hospital care in the last year was also more likely to have had a negative impact on patients than the previous year, the review of NHS and social care services in England found.

More than half a million people aged 65 and over are now being admitted to hospital in an emergency with avoidable problems, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) report also showed.

These problems include malnutrition, pressure sores and urinary tract infections.

There has been a 64 per cent increase in the last six years in pneumonia admissions among older people, while inhalation of food or liquid has led to a 52 per cent rise, and admissions for urinary tract infections have seen a 45 per cent increase.

The report said: “In the aftermath of the failures of care at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, our inspectors’ biggest concern in 2012/13 was that acute hospitals made no improvement in assessing and monitoring the quality of care they provided.

“We also found no improvement in safety and safeguarding, or in hospital patients being treated with dignity and respect.

“Around half (47 per cent) of the problems we uncovered in our inspections in the NHS in 2012/13 had a major or moderate impact on patients.

“This is a deterioration from the previous year (39 per cent).”

Overall, CQC inspectors found poor care in around one in 10 of all hospital inspections.

Looking at dignity and nutrition for older people, the CQC said it was “alarmed to see that there were fewer hospitals where patients were always treated with dignity and their privacy and independence respected”.

It said it was “clearly unacceptable that this position, poor to begin with, had deteriorated further”. Problems included staff discussing confidential patient details in public and staff “talking over patients as though they were not there”. Patients could not always reach call bells and some staff did not respond to them in a reasonable time, the report went on.

On social care, the report said the care received by many people in 2012/13 was “still poor”.

One in five nursing home inspections revealed safety concerns, such as failing to give out medicines safely.

In half (51 per cent) of cases where inspectors found problems with adult social care, this had a major or moderate impact on people which was “no better than the previous year”.

The report added: “We issued more warning notices to tackle this poor care – 818 in 2012/13, compared with 598 the previous year – an increase of almost 40 per cent.”

The report sets out CQC’s findings about the quality of care in the year to March 31 2013, and is based on more than 35,000 inspections.

David Behan, chief executive of the CQC, said: “Those responsible for care in local areas need to work together quickly to address the number of avoidable emergency admissions to hospital.

“GPs, care homes, home care agencies, community health services and hospitals, with local commissioners, must plan effectively to make sure our older and more vulnerable people are cared for in the way they deserve.”