Page last updated at 23:05 GMT, Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Failing hospital to review cases

A tribute wall to the people who died at Stafford Hospital
Mr Johnson blamed management failure for poor patient treatment

Treatment of more than 3,000 patients at a hospital where the NHS's watchdog has said up to 400 people died needlessly could be reviewed.

Bosses at Stafford hospital have pledged to look at 3,200 cases in the wake of a Healthcare Commission report.

The commission said 400 more patients than normal died between 2005-08 as the emergency care was "appalling".

The health trust which runs the hospital said independent reviews of case notes would be arranged.

Following the review Health Secretary Alan Johnson launched an inquiry, focusing on the years 2002-07, and said "poor, abysmal management" was to blame and not targets or any other "excuse."

The 3,200 case reviews are of patients admitted as emergencies, aged 18 and over and who died during 2005-08.

Health Secretary Alan Johnson: "It is not representative of the NHS"

In its report, the HC said "appalling" emergency care resulted in patients dying needlessly at the hospital, run by Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.

While it was impossible to blame all of the 400 extra deaths on the hospital's care, some patients would have died as a result, it said.

However, it revealed deficiencies at "virtually every stage" of emergency care and that managers pursued targets to the detriment of patient care.

One of the worst examples of care cited in the watchdog's report was the use of receptionists to carry out initial checks on patients.

The details of the [reviews] are yet to be finalised as it will be necessary to find appropriate medical specialists for each individual case
Eric Morton, hospital interim chief executive

In response to the report, interim chief executive of the trust, Eric Morton, has now pledged that meetings would be arranged for all concerned patients and relatives about the "quality of care they have received".

"At the request of families we will arrange for an independent review of their case notes", he said in a statement.

"The details of exactly how the [reviews] will be carried out are yet to be finalised as it will be necessary to find appropriate medical specialists for each individual case."

Stressing the case was not a reflection of the NHS as a whole, Mr Johnson said: "We have to ensure that what happened here can't happen at Stafford Hospital again and doesn't happen anywhere else."

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He added he had asked the National Quality Board to ensure early warning systems for underperformance across the whole NHS were working properly.

Its report cited low staffing levels, inadequate nursing, lack of equipment, lack of leadership, poor training and ineffective systems for identifying when things went wrong.

It said that:

• Unqualified receptionists carried out initial checks on patients arriving at the accident and emergency department

• Heart monitors were turned off in the emergency assessment unit because nurses did not know how to use them

• There were not enough nurses to provide proper care

• The trust's management board did not routinely discuss the quality of care

• Patients were "dumped" into a ward near A&E without nursing care so the four-hour A&E waiting time could be met

• There was often no experienced surgeon in the hospital during the night

'Chaotic systems'

The investigation into the hospital, in Stafford, began in May 2008 after complaints from residents were backed up by statistics showing a high death rate.

Mr Morton said lessons had since been learned and that staffing levels had been increased.

The commission's chairman Sir Ian Kennedy said: "This is a story of appalling standards of care and chaotic systems for looking after patients.

"There were inadequacies at almost every stage in the care of emergency patients.

"There is no doubt that patients will have suffered and some of them will have died as a result."

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