Hospital safety standards shocking, say inspectors

Hospital ward Image copyright SPL
Image caption The Royal College of Nursing says mistakes are the result of understaffed wards

Safety standards in hospitals in England are "shocking", inspectors say.

The warning by the Care Quality Commission came as it released the results for the first 82 hospital inspected under a new regime.

The system has been designed to be tougher and was overhauled following the Stafford Hospital scandal.

The first wave of assessments focused on sites deemed most at risk - overall four out of five were told their safety standards were not good enough.

The CQC, which published the results as part of its annual state of care report, said the level of poor performance was "shocking".

It cited a variation in basic safety measures, pointing out so-called "never events" were still happening at the rate of once a day across the NHS.

Providers must get the basics right, the CQC said.

Of the 82 hospitals inspected - a quarter of the total in England - eight were given an inadequate rating and 57 require improvement.

CQC chief executive David Behan said: "There is too much variation in care".

'Expensive and wasteful'

Publication came on the day that Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt lamented the "expensive and wasteful" mistakes that were being made by hospitals.

He highlighted research by Frontier Economics for the government which showed errors, such as mistakes with medicine, bed ulcers and avoidable infections, could be costing the NHS in England over £1bn a year - and possibly as much as £2.5bn.

In a speech in Birmingham, he said: "I want every director of every hospital trust to understand the impact this harm is having not just on their patients, but also on their finances.

"And I want every nurse in the country to understand that if we work together to make the NHS the safest healthcare organisation in the world, we could potentially release resources for additional nurses, additional training, and additional time to care.

"More resources should be invested in improving patient care rather than wasted on picking up the pieces when things go wrong."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Mr Hunt wants hospital trust directors to understand the financial impact of harm

Last year the NHS spent £1.3bn on payouts after being sued by patients over care errors.

Mr Hunt's words mark the start of a poster campaign warning staff about the financial problems basic errors cause.

But Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, said the government needed to invest in more staff before patient care can be improved.

He said: "Falls and preventable conditions such as pressure ulcers happen when there are not enough staff on a ward to care properly for every patient, not because nurses are unaware that these things should be prevented."

The British Medical Association's Dr Mark Porter commented: "It is reassuring that the report has found many examples of excellent care, but every patient should have confidence that the care they receive will be of consistently high quality.

"Rising demand coupled with a severe funding gap has left many parts of the NHS under extreme pressure, with some services stretched to breaking point.

"Doctors have told us that the increasing pressure and unmanageable workloads are the greatest barriers to delivering high quality care for patients."

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