Bosses at Blackpool’s under fire Victoria Hospital today made a pledge to the Government and patients and said: “You can rely on us to get this right.”
Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust was one of 14 to be investigated by NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh because of its higher-than-expected number of deaths from 2010 to 2013.
And a damning report, published yesterday, revealed a worrying series of failings – many due to staffing levels.
There is a “potentially unsafe” level of nursing staff on some wards, while many are called on to juggle several different high pressure roles.
There is also a lack of out of hours staff and a need for 35 new consultants to be recruited.
Patients and their families say care is being compromised due to the shortages.
Bosses today said they were fully aware of the challenges ahead and had plans in place to “make the improvements we need to make.”
Of the 14 hospital trusts under review, just three – including Blackpool – have been spared from entering ‘special measures’, which means experts from high-performing trusts would come in to help them meet a series of urgent improvements.
However, the Blackpool trust must still make urgent changes of its own in the next year.
They include: Reporting serious incidents, which the report says nurses had claimed was too “time consuming”; staffing levels, which it said were not appropriate or well managed; patient safety after it found there were delays in getting pressure relieving mattresses on wards; incomplete documentation; unlocked drug stores and inadequate toilet facilities.
There were also issues in communication between management and staff; the slow speed at which changes had been implemented over the last couple of years; management and leadership team members not being available after hours and infection control which needed to improve.
The trust’s chief executive, Gary Doherty, said: “Based on what we have already done and what we plan to do, the Government can rely on us to make the improvements we need to make.
“We know this is a very anxious time for our staff and patients, and the situation of receiving the report is not one we would want to be in, but now we have it, we welcome its findings which help us prioritise and refocus our efforts.”
Mr Doherty said the trust had invested £1.5m this year on additional staff, particularly nursing, to be brought in between now and October, and would bring in extra temporary staff in the meantime.
He added: “In light of the report, we have also decided, right here and right now, to take on additional temporary support to help us respond to the concerns of patients.
“We are also ensuring all our staff have the training they need to deal with what are very difficult and complex situations.”
The trust will also focus making sure patients and their families know exactly what is happening with their care.
Blackpool Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) will be involved in a follow-up review to ensure improvements are being made, which includes a site visit next January.
Mr Doherty said: “In terms of patient experience, we are getting it right a lot of the time, but there are people who are unhappy, and that’s reflected in the report.
“Our immediate action is making sure we have additional staff now, that we focus on our patient pathways and that we are working for our patients and that we learn our lesson across the organisation.
“We will be making sure our senior management team is out and about and engaging with people.
“Over the next few months we want to look at better ways of involving our front line staff in coming up with ways of improving what we do.
“I am utterly convinced, and I think the review team is with us, there is a lot we have done, and there is a log we can do to make the trust better.”
Dr Amanda Doyle, chief clinical officer at Blackpool CCG said: “We note both the areas for improvement and where strengths have been identified and will continue to work the trust to ensure all recommendations are fully implemented.”
The Vic’s high mortality rate was a smoke alarm
An inquiry into the level of care at Blackpool Victoria Hospital was ordered by the Government because of its high mortality level, described in the report as a “smoke alarm” for potential problems.
Fylde coast hospitals were revealed to have high Summary Hospital-level Mortality Indicator figures (SHMI) – those used to record deaths after treatment – for two successive years.
The figures showed between 2010 and 2012, 2,409 patients died after treatment at The Vic when only 1,900 deaths had been expected. The data is compared with 142 health trusts in England which creates a national SHMI average of 100.
Anything higher than 100 – The Vic came in at 123.3 – is a higher-than-expected mortality rate.
Health bosses in Blackpool have previously said the town has “historically had high mortality figures” and had undertaken extensive work to find out why. The trust’s medical director was quoted in January this year as saying the figures had come down.