Direct risk-to-life structural deficiencies, staff shortages at “critical levels”, too few radiologists to maintain core service, and a hospital at “tipping point” – NHS boards warn of “catastrophic” and “extreme” risks across Eastern England’s hospitals as Labour pledges first 100 days of government to pull NHS back from the brink.
Labour pledges a relentless focus on the NHS in its first 100 days in government as new research reveals hundreds of “extreme” risks to patient and staff safety in hospitals across England.
The long-term impact that Tory and Liberal Democrat underfunding is having on our health service is exposed in official NHS Trust documents.
Analysis of more than 120 Trust board papers shows NHS Trusts are faced with hundreds of risks to patient safety classed as “catastrophic” or “extreme”, with the majority linked to lack of spending, staffing shortages or the failures of privatisation.
In government, Labour will immediately undertake a full audit of the risks revealed by the research and prioritise capital spending – which Labour has already allocated – to ensure people and buildings are made safe.
In North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust, the board reported extreme risks, including:
- Patient safety risk due to theatre and radiology air handling plant room (4×5) – level of control rated as inadequate
- Inadequate legionella control
- A 33% level of radiologist vacancies meaning service cannot be maintained
- Failing heating system due to lack of maintenance and capital investment
- “Uncontrolled” failure to meet active treatment timescales in urology, risking premature death of patients
- Insufficient medical cover for critical care services
Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King’s Lynn, says there is a direct risk to life and safety of patients, visitors and staff, due to catastrophic failure of the roof structure.
Luton and Dunstable Trust’s board warns that it “may have reached a tipping point in terms of the environment, cleaning and patient flow, all of which need to be scrutinised to stem the tide” and “no longer have a decant ward due to capacity issues”. Deep cleaning is reported to be necessary. Nov 19 Risk Register p255
Cambridge University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust reported numerous risks including an extreme risk of failure to address fire safety priorities due to funding issues. BAF and CRR p196
Last year (2018/19) there were 15,844 patient incidents “directly” related to estates and facilities services (an average of 70 incidents per acute, mental health and ambulance Trust) and 4,810 clinical incidents caused by estate and infrastructure failure. In 2018/19 there were also 1,541 fires recorded by NHS Trusts, and 34 people were injured as a result of fires. The cost to eliminate the backlog of maintenance repairs in NHS Trusts is now £6.5 billion. £1.1 billion of this is high-risk maintenance and repairs.
NHS leaders have already warned this year that lack of investment in facilities was impacting patient safety. And last month GPs warned that winter pressures were likely to have an impact on patient safety, and 9 out of 10 hospital bosses felt staffing pressures were putting patient’s health at risk.
Earlier this year the Chief Inspector of Hospitals at the CQC warned that the NHS had made little progress in improving patient safety over the past 20 years, and NHS Providers published research that showed 8 out of 10 trust leaders felt that reduced investment in NHS facilities was compromising patient safety.
Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, said:
“These shocking reports reveal an NHS in crisis and on the brink.
“It is one thing for clinicians and managers to say what needs fixing, but we need a Labour government that will crack on and do it.
“We pledge that within the first 100 days of a Labour government we will get on top of this to ensure the extra funding we’ve promised is prioritised to keep patients and staff safe.
“The choice at this election is clear: five more years of the Tories running our health service into the ground – with more patients waiting longer for cancer treatment and operations, and more young people denied mental health care – or a Labour government on the side of patients and staff, with a rescue plan for our NHS.”