Wards of shame: NHS boss sacked as soaring death rates are revealed at second hospital

The chairman of a NHS foundation trust has been sacked after a series of failings were revealed at another hospital.

Regulator Monitor found mortality rates in 2008 and 2009 were 12% higher than expected at Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust.

It also raised serious concerns over patient safety, leadership and waiting times on A&E and cancer treatment.

Richard Bourne was reappointed as chairman of the Trust in September, after chairing it for four years. But Monitor has used its regulatory powers to force him to step down today.

It is the latest example of patients paying the ultimate price for Labour's failure to stamp out Third World conditions in the NHS - despite trebling taxpayer funding over the past decade.

Dirty: When inspectors visited the Basildon University Hospital in Essex, they found serious breaches in hygiene standards

A statement from Monitor said: "Regulatory action has been prompted by the trust's failure to comply with healthcare standards, its failure to exercise its functions effectively, efficiently and economically, and serious and wide-ranging concerns as to overall governance and leadership at the trust."

Monitor officials found the trust to be in "significant breach" of the terms relating to its foundation trust status.

The trust also had death rates higher than the national average, at 112 in 2008/09.

The national average is 100, meaning anything above this level is considered high.

The trust also failed to deliver on the Government's 18-week target, which promises patients they will be treated within 18 weeks of referral by their GP.

It failed to deliver the target over three consecutive quarters and also failed to sustain meeting the four-hour target for A&E.

Other targets affected include cancer waiting times, measures of patient satisfaction and board leadership and governance.

However, according to the trust, many such issues have been resolved.

Earlier this month, Mr Bourne accused Monitor of being "grossly unfair" and "intimidatory".

The news comes after Monitor intervened at another foundation trust, Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, after a damning report found poor hygiene and standards of care.

At least 70 people may have died who should have been saved.

The Essex hospital is run by one of the supposedly 'elite' foundation trusts, which have greater freedom to manage their finances. Last night there were angry calls for its entire management team to resign.

Unannounced visits by inspectors from the Care Quality Commission found blood spattered on curtains and chairs in the A&E ward, a catheter bag on the floor, poorly-trained nurses and patients treated on trolleys.

A commode was soiled under the seat, nurses were failing to feed frail elderly people and patients had pressure sores.

There was no paediatric nurse for most of the time so children were not getting the best care.

The mortality rate in the A&E ward was 6.1 per cent in 2008, more than a third higher than the national average of 4.4 per cent.

The scandal mirrors what happened at Mid Staffordshire foundation trust - a much bigger trust than Basildon - where 400 people died over three years.



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Katherine Murphy of the Patients Association said last night: 'The entire board should most certainly resign.

'If there was one member who had any concerns, they should have been raising them.

'We're sick and tired of NHS managers and senior staff walking away unscathed when families are left with a life sentence of grief.'

Alan Whittle, the trust's £150,000-a-year chief executive, said they were confident of returning conditions to an acceptable standard before the deadline of next Monday set by the Care Quality Commission. 

But last night he ignored calls to resign.

'We are deeply disappointed that we were found wanting in three of the 15 measures covered by this inspection,' Mr Whittle said.

'I am confident the actions we, and our cleaning contractor, are taking will return us to compliance by November 30.

'I am also grateful to the CQC for pointing out in its report that our infection rates have fallen year on year and are lower than the majority of similar trusts.'

Trust chairman Michael Large said: 'That Monitor has found us to be in breach of our terms of authorisation as a foundation trust is an extremely serious matter and we do not seek to underestimate its gravity.

'I want to reassure our local community that the safety and well-being of our patients is our highest priority.'

But the CQC, which said 'systemic failings' had led to 'persistently high mortality rates', has ordered in a taskforce from the regulator Monitor to push through improvements, saying it has lost confidence in management's ability to do so.

Monitor has the power to sack trust bosses. 

It also emerged last night that the CQC awarded the trust 13 out of 14 points for cleanliness only last year, rating it 'good'. It was only the spot checks last month which uncovered the failings. 

Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: 'When the appalling standards of care at Stafford Hospital were revealed we were assured by Labour ministers that it was "an isolated case". That sort of complacency is simply not good enough.

'I am extremely disturbed by this news and the effect that these shocking conditions may have had on patients. It is unforgivable if any lives have been needlessly lost.' 

The inspectors carried out their unannounced check on October 8 to 'see the hospital as a patient or visitor would see it'.

They also analysed complaints, from which they learned that many elderly patients had not received help with eating.

In its report, the CQC said its main concerns were persistently high mortality rates, a poor care environment, inadequate arrangements to treat children, poor nursing care, breaches of infection control standards and a lack of leadership at both board and ward level.

Management of the A&E department was poor, with problems including lack of leadership, poor environment and huge delays.

There was no system to ensure staff could observe patients in the waiting room, meaning they could not spot if a patient's condition deteriorated.

Patients had little privacy, with curtains separating cubicles. Some were cared for on trolleys around the edge of the major injuries area and, in busier times, in the centre.

Arrangements for children were also criticised. There were no special areas for children in the major injuries area.

There were few nurses with psychiatric training and no consultant with a paediatric speciality.

The ward spent more time without a paediatric nurse than with one.

Basic nursing care was also ' inconsistent'. Complaints from patients showed nurses failed to monitor, feed and give drugs correctly.

Up to 20 patients in 1,000 had evidence of pressure sores - as against 11 per 1,000 nationally.

Scandal: Over three years, 400 people died at Staffordshire General Hospital in a similar case to Basildon

Local care homes repeatedly expressed concerns about residents coming back with pressure sores.

It was unclear who was in charge of the nurses, and those meant to be in charge lacked the 'professional maturity' required.

Inspectors also found that the trust was not effectively decontaminating reusable equipment or maintaining a clean and appropriate environment in the A&E department.

They found 11 out of 12 trolley mattresses were stained and two had a 'foul odour'.

It says: 'Nurses we spoke to were not aware that mattresses could be opened and checked.'

Blood pressure cuffs and suction machines for clearing airways were dirty and dusty.

Half the curtains that separated cubicles were soiled, some with blood - and the system for changing them was not working.

CQC chief executive Cynthia Bower said last night: 'The trust has taken our concerns seriously but improvements are simply not happening fast enough.

'We have lost confidence in the management's ability to deliver on commitments and turn the situation around. We have therefore asked Monitor to use its formal powers to kick-start improvement.'

LibDem spokesman Norman Lamb said: 'People have a right to know how on earth a hospital can be rated "good" a few weeks before such serious failings come to light. 

'This government has set up a labyrinth of bodies and inspectors which are meant to ensure high quality standards in our hospitals but it simply isn't working.'

Katherine Murphy of the Patients Association said: 'Yet again the regulator's assessment of a hospital has proven to be farcically inaccurate. It is nothing but a tick-box exercise that didn't reveal any of these problems.

'Yet again patients are being neglected. Lack of monitoring, lack of help with feeding, lack of dignity, avoidable pressure sores.

'How many times do the public need to keep hearing about this before the Government is embarrassed enough to do something about it?'

Health minister Mike O'Brien said: 'Patient safety must be a top priority for the NHS and all patients deserve the highest quality of care.

'We expect these issues to be dealt with quickly and effectively to ensure high quality, safe care for patients. Their progress will be closely and rigorously overseen by Monitor.'

The trust has two hospitals providing care for around 300,000 people in South-west Essex. Most of the inpatient care is at the 777-bed Basildon University Hospital, while outpatient care is at Orsett hospital. 

The foundation trust status is a supposed marker of excellence and allows NHS organisations greater financial freedom and control over their own affairs.


'Torture': Lucy Anderson, pictured with husband Adam, says she was refused a scan at Basildon hospital despite being five months pregnant and bleeding heavily

Lucy Anderson blames the Basildon hospital for the 'mental torture' of losing her unborn baby.

She was five months pregnant and bleeding heavily when she went to the A&E. She allegedly waited five hours to be seen, only to be refused a scan due to lack of staff.

The 30-year-old mental health worker said she was then told her baby was fine and was sent home, even though doctors could not find a heartbeat and she was still bleeding.

When she went back the next day, she was told the baby was dead but she would have to give birth to it - although nothing could be done for three days. 

She said there was dried blood on the floor of the hospital when she went in there.

Mrs Anderson, who is pregnant again, said: 'I had to walk around with a dead baby inside. You can imagine the heartache this caused, not to mention the mental torture.'

The nightmare continued once Mrs Anderson, of West Thurrock, was admitted to the hospital. She started to haemorrhage and her condition was critical.

'I nearly died that night but was informed I was put aside because a child had been admitted after an accident,' added Mrs Anderson, who was so traumatised she was off work for six months.

The hospital began an investigation last month into her experience in January.

Mrs Anderson has vowed not to return to Basildon hospital with her second pregnancy.

She said it had been nearly a year since her son died and she still had heard nothing.

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