Medical negligence concerns as Kettering hospital placed in special measures

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has placed Kettering General Hospital into special measures after a CQC inspection identified the hospital was underperforming in a number of areas.

Taking such drastic action raises concerns that patients at the hospital may face, or had faced, an increased risk of medical negligence as a result of the hospital’s substandard performance.

The CQC inquiry into Kettering General Hospital identified a number of key areas – amongst them children’s services and emergency care – where the institution is underperforming against acceptable standards, resulting in it being placed in special measures. Chief Inspector Prof Sir Mike Richards highlighted “a number of serious problems” amongst findings based on an inspection which took place during October 2016, citing a lack of awareness of risks to patients and poor management of these thereafter.  Such clinical failings are common grounds for medical negligence claims when patients suffer as a result of substandard care.

Clinical departments where care did not meet acceptable standards

CQC inspectors found problems in a wide range of departments, ranging from outpatient care and diagnostic imaging (putting patients at risk of misdiagnoses or delayed diagnosis of serious conditions) to general medical care, surgery, gynaecology and beyond. Maternity care was also an area criticised, raising concerns of potential increased risks of birth injuries and grounds for birth injury claims to be made.

Areas requiring improvement

Key findings included the following:

  • Numerous opportunities to minimise or prevent risk to patients were missed.
  • Data relating to safety and risk was not analysed in a timely or effective manner, resulting in ineffective planning in terms of improving safety procedures.
  • Some patients faced very long waits for treatment – in some cases up to 52 weeks – specifically for the likes of urology, and maxillofacial as well as ear, nose or throat treatment.
  • During out of hours periods and at weekends, an insufficient number of registrars or junior doctors were present to look after patients.
  • Staff were not completing safeguarding practices in line with hospital policy and were in some cases not sufficiently trained.
  • Patients were exposed to risk of receiving inappropriate care due to staff producing incomplete or poorly written care plans.
  • Complaints were almost invariably handled too slowly across all services.
  • There was insufficient space provided in the waiting area for children waiting to be seen.
  • Poor leadership in some areas resulting in a culture not conducive to learning from mistakes and implementing change.
  • The hospital did not have a baby abduction policy.
  • Medicine was not always stored appropriately, with poor monitoring of fridge temperatures.

The findings illustrate key failures in terms of the provision of satisfactory care, and may demonstrate examples of hospital negligence in some cases.

Leanne Hackshall; Kettering General Hospital’s Director of Nursing and Quality issued the following statement to the BBC in relation to the findings:

“We welcome the CQC’s very detailed inspection of the trust and are disappointed that we did not do better in it…We have an improvement plan underway which is addressing the areas highlighted by the CQC…Clearly it will take some time to address all of the issues listed in the report and bring them up to standard.”

Whilst it is true that the special measures implementation will allow the hospital to receive additional support towards improving patient care, the increased risks to patients associated with care that falls so far below CQC standards will concern patients past and present – and medical negligence solicitors – alike. The potential for harm to patients to occur at the institution remains high, and will have to be addressed quickly if instances of patients pursuing medical negligence compensation are to be avoided.

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