WHIPPS Cross University Hospital “does not have enough doctors and nurses to ensure safe care” according to a damning report.
The Leytonstone hospital was rated “inadequate” by the Care Quality Commission, which issued four warning notices requiring the trust to improve the care and welfare of patients, its system for assessing and monitoring services, staffing levels, and handling of complaints.
As a result, the NHS trust which runs Whipps Cross – told to “get a grip” by the chief inspector of hospitals – has been placed in special measures by the NHS Trust Development Authority.
It means a team will be sent in to run the hospital temporarily while the issues are addressed.
Prior to the inspection report being published on 17th March three bosses at Barts Health NHS Trust resigned. Last month it announced a £93million deficit, the largest in the NHS.
An inspection team spent six days at Whipps Cross in November, twice visiting the hospital unannounced.
The team of 45 inspectors found that staff morale was low. There was a “culture of bullying and harassment” with some staff reluctant fearful over speaking out. They were also “overstretched” following a reorganisation two years ago.
Professor Sir Mike Richards, chief inspector of hospitals, said: “Our inspection of Whipps Cross University Hospital has highlighted a number of serious concerns surrounding poor leadership, a culture of bullying, and low staffing which has led to risks to patient safety.
“There is a large section of the population in east London who depend on this hospital and they are entitled to services which provide safe, effective, compassionate and high quality care.
“Barts Health NHS Trust has not given sufficient priority to safety. We found frequent staff shortages and a reliance on agency and locum staff that increased the risk to patients. The trust must get a grip on what is happening here and on the low staff morale.”
CQC’s report also said that the average bed occupancy at Whipps Cross was so high it was affecting the flow of patients through the hospital, with patients admitted to wards which were not appropriate to their needs.
Patients were cared for in recovery areas, others were transferred out of critical care beds. People well enough to leave hospital experienced long delays in being discharged because paperwork had not been completed or because transport was not ready.
The hospital had “persistently failed to meet national waiting time targets” with some patients waiting more than 18 weeks for treatment. CQC added that too many operations were cancelled due to “a lack of available beds”.
In response Barts Health cheief executive Peter Morris, who will step down from his role as soon as a replacement is found, apologised.
He said: “This report describes services that fall a long way short of what we aspire to. We are very sorry for the failings identified by the CQC in some of our services at Whipps Cross and we know the trust has a big challenge ahead.
“The special measures regime is designed to aid service improvement by providing help and support where it is most needed.
“It has worked well with NHS organisations in other parts of the country and I am confident it will work here.”
Mr Morris said improvement work was already in progress at Whipps Cross at the time of the inspection, and since then further actions have been taken.
He added: “Barts Health is committed to ensuring the safety and welfare of every one of its patients.”
One of the first steps the trust has taken is to “strengthen the leadership team” at Whipps Cross and to “accelerate a comprehensive programme of quality improvements”.
The hospital will now have a dedicated managing director, a director of nursing and a medical director to support its day-to-day running.
In addition, Dr Tim Peachey, associate medical director at the NHS Trust Development Authority, has agreed to work with the trust to help it improve.