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University Hospitals Bristol Foundation Trust

CQC finds staffing now safe on Bristol children's heart ward

PERFORMANCE: The Care Quality Commission is satisfied University Hospitals Bristol Foundation Trust has addressed concerns about staffing levels on a ward for children recovering from heart surgery, a report by the trust claims.

The CQC issued the trust with a warning notice over staffing levels on ward 32 at the Bristol Royal Hospital for Children in September. The action followed an unannounced inspection prompted by the concerns of two families whose children died there.

Inspectors found the ward was operating as a high dependency unit but was staffed as general paediatric ward, with half as many registered nurses as required.

In a report due to go to Bristol City Council’s overview and scrutiny committee this week, medical director Sean O’Kelly said the trust had risk assessed the model of care, which involved “flexing up” staffing when the number or acuity of patients demanded it, and deemed it safe.

Dr Kelly said: “In considering how well the model of care described above mitigated the risks inherent in the care of children with complex congenital heart disease, the trust accepts that the CQC arrived at a different assessment to that of the trust, notwithstanding the excellent results that have been demonstrated by the service in recent years using this model of care.”

It was intended to be a temporary arrangement pending the completion of the national Safe and Sustainable review into children’s heart surgery. The plan was to set up a dedicated cardiac high dependency unit once the review had been completed and it was confirmed the trust would continue to provide the service.

The trust has since agreed with commissioners to bring these plans forward and begun recruitment of additional nursing posts. It has also closed four beds on the ward to improve nurse to patient ratios.

Dr Kelly said the CQC had visited again in November and the trust had received “informal confirmation” that the compliance concerns had been dealt with.

Readers' comments (1)

  • At the 12th December meeting Bristol City Councillors questioned Dr O'Kelly on his statement. At one point in the meeting he said:

    "There was risk of harm. There was not actual harm."

    That's rather like someone driving without a seatbelt claiming it's a safe thing to do because they haven't had an accident.

    If you were a parent of a child needing paediatric cardiac care, would you have wanted him/her to be cared for at Bristol under Dr O' Kelly's "temporary arrangement" which did not meet CQC's Essential Standards?

    Unsuitable or offensive?

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