Royal London hospital services ‘inadequate’ says Care Quality Commission

Royal London Hospital

Royal London Hospital - Credit: Archant

Hospital services at the Royal London have been slammed as “inadequate” by the Chief Inspector of Hospitals.

Royal London's new complex in Whitechapel

Royal London's new complex in Whitechapel - Credit: Barts Trust

Long waiting times, operations being cancelled and lack of safety and leadership have been cited in a Care Quality Commission’s damning report.

Today’s shock findings come two days after hospital chief executive Peter Morris revealed he was quitting.

Barts NHS Trust which runs the Royal London had already been placed on Special Measures over care at Whipps Cross Hospital in March.

The Commission subsequently inspected the Royal London and Newham hospitals which both have been found to be “inadequate”—with 65 areas where the trust “must make improvements”.

The Chief Inspector of Hospitals, Prof Sir Mike Richards, has passed his concerns to commissioners seeking action to improve the safety and quality of services.

“It is disappointing to report the extent and level of our concerns, particularly in safety and leadership,” Sir Mike said.

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“There is lack of engagement with staff, low morale, high stress levels, even confusion among the workforce about who is in charge.

“There is too little attention to safety and dealing with complaints. It is worrying that the trust’s directors didn’t seem to have confidence in their own data.

“It is all the more concerning with waiting times which were so long, or operations being cancelled.”

The Commission found “a committed workforce which felt undervalued by trust leadership.”

Barts Health, serving a population of well over two million, lacked strategy and vision, the inspectors concluded. The Clinical Group structure meant to provide leadership was ineffective, while patient safety was not given sufficient priority.

Some staff were discouraged from raising concerns and there was “a culture of blame”.

Bart’s Chief Medical Officer Steve Ryan admitted: “We are very sorry for the failings identified by the Commission in some of our services. We have a big challenge ahead, but are determined to rise to it.”

He welcomed “targeted help” under special measures. Improvements were now promised at the Royal London and the other Barts Trust hospitals with “urgency and commitment”.

The commission did find areas of “outstanding practice” such as children’s pain relief following operations. A Royal College of Physicians’ audit of stroke care rated the hospital 97.5 per cent from diagnosis to rehabilitation, the highest rate in London. The hospital was also a pioneer in trauma care, with survival rates twice the national average.

But the good bits were overshadowed by today’s findings, which came two days after Barts Health chief executive Peter Morris announced he would soon be stepping down.

Taking up the role as interim chief executive from June 1 is Alwen Williams, an NHS manager since 1980 who has 12 years’ experience as a chief executive. She knows East London well, having spent nine years at the Royal London and having held chief executive posts including Tower Hamlets Primary Care Trust and NHS East London & The City.

GPs said that “some quality standards clearly need to be addressed as a matter of priority” following the Commission’s scathing report.

A Tower Hamlets Clinical Commissioning Group’s spokesman said: “The report is disappointed in the overall rating. We will continue to work closely with the Trust to make improvements that are so clearly needed.”

The report will act as a catalyst to speed up improvements, the GPs add, to “turn this situation around.”