Page last updated at 15:43 GMT, Wednesday, 30 September 2009 16:43 UK

Private clinics face safety check

Dr John Hubley
John Hubley was an expert in developing world health issues

Safety checks are being carried out at all private clinics used to cut NHS waiting times in England after a man died during a routine operation.

Dr John Hubley bled to death during a gall bladder operation at Eccleshill Treatment Centre in Bradford in 2007.

It subsequently emerged that there were no emergency blood supplies on site and key medical equipment was unavailable.

The Care Quality Commission, which regulates healthcare in England, is now looking into procedures at all clinics.

The move is revealed in a BBC Panorama special, Dying to be Treated?

The Department of Health said there was a robust system of checks and balances in place to ensure patient safety.

The private clinics that are being inspected are known as Independent Sector Treatment Centres and exclusively treat NHS patients as part of an initiative to reduce NHS waiting lists.

At an inquest late last year it emerged that the Eccleshill Treatment Centre had been inspected by the Care Quality Commission's predecessor, the Healthcare Commission, five months before Dr Hubley died and cleared as "fit for purpose".

The coroner said the Healthcare Commission had missed major flaws in the clinic's emergency plan and described these flaws as "woefully inadequate".

No regulator can give a cast iron guarantee that such an incident will not happen again
Care Quality Commission statement

During evidence the coroner described aspects of the clinic's plan to fetch blood in an emergency as "Mickey Mouse".

In a statement the Care Quality Commission said: "The death of Dr Hubley was an absolute tragedy.

"All those involved, including the regulator, should question what was done and ask whether they should do more to minimise the chances of recurrence.

"Our predecessor organisation, the Healthcare Commission, examined the situation closely.

"Having reviewed the regulatory action taken, important lessons have been identified for us to learn from.

"In order to assure ourselves that the risk to patients is minimised, we are checking with all registered independent treatment centres that they have robust and appropriate systems in place.

"No regulator can give a cast iron guarantee that such an incident will not happen again, or that all potential issues can be identified every time.

"But we can promise to work tirelessly to protect the safety of patients, continuously asking how we might do better."

Blood bag
The operating theatre had no emergency blood supplies

The Eccleshill Treatment Centre now has emergency blood and equipment on site and a coroner found that there were no continuing issues at the clinic arising from the death of Dr Hubley.

The clinic told Panorama that Dr Hubley's was the only death after 22,000 surgical procedures.

The Department of Health said the Independent Sector Treatment Programme had been a success and pointed to extremely high patient satisfaction rates.

In particular they claimed to have reduced the suffering of hundreds of thousands of patients who might otherwise have had to wait long periods for their operations.

It said patients could expect the same standard of care in Independent Sector Treatment Centres as in the NHS and there was a robust system of checks and balances in place to ensure patient safety.

Health minister Mike O'Brien told the BBC in a statement that Dr Hubley's death was "deeply regrettable".

"This incident was thoroughly investigated and new procedures have been put in place to reduce the chances of incidents like this happening again," he said.

Peter Walsh, chief executive of patient safety charity Action against Medical Accidents, said: "There should always be a robust assessment of risk, and if this had been done prior to the Independent Sector Treatment initiative, things may have been very different."

Dying to be Treated? - a Panorama special, BBC One, Wednesday 30 September, at 2000 BST.



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