In these times of austerity when the NHS faces perhaps its greatest challenge yet trying to meet incessantly rising patient demand with dwindling financial and human resources it is tempting for patients (at least those who can afford it) to look to the private health sector for salvation.
However, as a recent Care Quality Commission (CQC) health inspection report into patient safety on the King Edward VII Hospital in Marylebone (the bespoke choice of royalty) revealed, more money does not always make it better. The private hospital, which opened in 1899, treats 4,000 patients a year and counts the Queen, Prince Philip, and the Duchess of Cambridge amongst its patients, yet was reported by the CQC to have:
- a shortage of emergency breathing equipment (an intubation trolley used to treat patients with difficult airways was shared between the surgical and critical care departments which were on different floors of the hospital) potentially placing patients at risk.
- inadequate management strategy on incident investigations. Some staff were not entirely clear that where mistakes had been made, there had to be both a verbal and written apology made to the patient in compliance with the hospital’s duty of candour.
- a ‘backlog’ of 671 incomplete investigations into patient incidents. In the year to September 2016 there were 181 reported clinical incidents, of which 39 resulted in minimal patient harm, 17 in short-term harm, and 4 in patient deaths.
- 28 patient falls in hospital (a relatively high number when compared with patient numbers) in the past year
- a storage of outpatient medical records and the hospital was found not to maintain accurate, complete, and contemporaneous records of care and treatment given to patients
- a comparatively poor referral rate for timely palliative care to enable patients to have a ‘peaceful death’
- medicine cabinets regularly left unlocked
- concerns that there was inappropriate consultant cover, with a lack of oversight of consultant practicing privileges. 68 consultants did not have the expected full standard of documentation in their files at the time of the inspection
- a reported ‘lack of oversight’ by senior managers of its 233 consultants and a reported failure of some doctors to follow basic ‘bare below the elbow’ rules on infection control.
The CQC rated the hospital as ‘requiring improvement’ in some but not all areas following its inspection – the second lowest possible score. It was also served with two formal requirement notices after having been found to have breached regulations.
The Hospital responded to the CQC report by saying it was ‘extremely disappointed’ with the rating and vowed to improve.
Perhaps when it comes to healthcare standards at least, David Cameron was right to say that we really are ‘all in this together’.
It wasn’t all bad news. The hospital was found to be ‘good’ at being both caring and responsive for example.
If you or a loved one has suffered personal injury as a consequence of sub-standard medical treatment received in a private hospital setting, you may be entitled to compensation. Speak to specialist clinical negligence solicitors to see if they can assist.