Patients at risk over lack of hospital equipment at Barts NHS trust, Care Commission warns

Hospital patients have been at risk of harm over staff shortages or medical equipment not always available in east London, according to regulators.

The Care Quality Commission has issued 15 compliance actions to Bart’s NHS Health Trust hospitals, including the Royal London in Whitechapel and the London Chest in Bethnal Green, its report issued this-morning reveals.

“Equipment wasn’t always readily available,” the report stresses. “This placed patients at risk of harm.”

Investigators found problems at the Royal London on both counts.

Staffing levels on some medical and surgical wards were “not always safe”. Equipment was either unavailable, in short supply, inappropriate or not subject to essential checks.

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But the hospital was clean and staff adhered to infection control practice, the commission found.

Staff at the London Chest Hospital were not always able to respond to patients’ needs “in a timely manner” at night, to “ensure their safety and welfare”, says the report. The hospital needed to improve response to patients’ needs.

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Some Barts Trust staff told inspectors they felt bullied, the commission’s findings reveal.

The commission’s chief inspector, Prof Sir Mike Richards, said: “We found staff morale was low. Too many staff of all levels came to us to express their concerns about being bullied.

“The trust needs to take action to make sure people feel confident to speak up.”

Hospital bosses must “listen to staff, respond to their concerns and adopt ‘no tolerance’ to bullying by middle managers”.

But inspectors found the Barts Trust overall did provide safe services and most patients were complimentary.

Barts Trust has accepted that the Commission’s report is “tough, but fair” and highlights where it needs to improve. Three of the 15 warning notices have already been removed, the trust points out.

A trust statement said: “We have taken steps to ensure our senior team is more visible, particularly in wards and clinical areas, including weekends, to respond to issues raised by staff and patients.”

Hospital bosses admit they have “relied too heavily on temporary staffing from agencies” and are currently recruiting to halve nursing vacancies by the end of March and reduce reliance on short-term nursing cover.

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