Pressure still on at Whipps Cross

Russell Hargrave reports on hospital’s progress one year on from damning watchdog inspection

Whipps Cross Hospital

The entrance to Whipps Cross University Hospital

Whipps Cross University Hospital is facing fresh financial pressures one year on from a damning report into its treatment of patients.

Barts Health NHS Trust, which runs Whipps Cross, claims the hospital needs an £80million investment to maintain its ageing facilities and guarantee safe care for patients.

But the trust is seeking this money amid its own financial problems, with its deficit now confirmed to the Echo as standing at more than £128m. This remains the highest annual overspend of any NHS trust in the country, and has risen by over a third in just five months.

Whipps Cross has been under close scrutiny since March 2015, when a government watchdog labelled its services ‘inadequate’. Barts Health was placed into special measures as a result, with the Care Quality Commission telling officials to “get a grip” before problems became even worse.

CQC demanded action on four specific areas of concern; patient care, staffing levels, monitoring systems, and how complaints are handled. The report also criticised a “culture of bullying” at the hospital.

In a statement on the progress made to improve the hospital since that time, Barts Health stressed that it had already committed to maintaining accident and emergency facilities and the maternity unit at Whipps Cross, and had invested £5m in two new operating theatres which will open later in 2016.

A trust spokesperson added: “We know more is needed to make sure Whipps Cross continues to be a thriving local hospital with a future of safe and sustainable healthcare for local residents.

“That’s why we have recently appointed a team of experts to help us plan further improvements to the estate.”

The Echo has heard mixed accounts of patients’ experience over the last year. One area where Whipps Cross has come under fire, especially among local people online, is for its maternity services. But Walthamstow mum Hannah Guthrie, whose youngest daughter Winnie was born earlier than expected at the hospital on Boxing Day last year, said: “If I was going to have another baby, I hope I could have it at Whipps Cross.”

Even though the induced delivery was “a massive shock” Hannah said she was treated well. “Although not exactly as planned, the birth was a positive experience.”

Another Waltham Forest resident, who visited Whipps Cross last October and who asked not to be named, was left to wait five hours for her scheduled appointment. She told the Echo her experience led her to fear “the hospital was on its last legs”. She described medical staff shouting and panicking in front of patients, adding: “These were wonderful people, who were really stretched.”

Patients’ groups had raised concerns about poor performance at Whipps Cross before CQC stepped in. Analysis of patient feedback in 2014, published by consumer champions Healthwatch Waltham Forest, showed growing dissatisfaction particularly towards the hospital’s administration and communication.

In a report titled ‘Whipps Cross Hospital: Stepping Into The Future’ published last autumn, Barts Health admitted there were “longstanding issues on the Whipps Cross site” which would require “a site-wide review of areas for immediate investment”.

If you would like to share your Whipps Cross experience or become a patient representative:

Call 0203 078 9990