• BMI Healthcare hospital in Kent receives damning CQC report
  • Surgery patients at “high risk” of harm or abuse
  • Inspectors witnessed wrong patient being taken for surgery
  • Leadership and governance concerns also highlighted

A privately owned hospital has been rated inadequate by the Care Quality Commission after regulators found patients were at “high risk” of harm or abuse, and problems with the facility’s leadership and governance.

Fawkham Manor Hospital in Kent, which is run by BMI Healthcare, was rated inadequate in the CQC’s safety and well led domains. The 30-bed hospital received a good rating for caring and requires improvement for effective and responsive care.

The verdict was based on routine inspections in August and November last year. The regulator brought forward the inspection after concerns were raised about the standard of governance at the hospital. Some improvements were noted when inspectors returned in November.

Fawkham Manor provides elective surgery and outpatient care. NHS England hospital activity data shows that last year the facility had 1,719 NHS elective admissions and 2,974 NHS first outpatient appointments. According to the CQC, the most common procedures are cataract surgery, knee surgery and diagnostic endoscopy.

The CQC report said surgery patients were “at high risk of avoidable harm, or abuse, as the hospital did not consistently follow safety systems, processes and standard operating procedures”. It recorded one incident where the wrong patient was taken for surgery, only to be identified in the anaesthetic room. Staff told inspectors of another similar incident a few months previously.

Facilities were unsafe and services were not always responsive for children and young people. Staff did not assess, monitor or manage risks to patients, and policies were not followed to ensure equipment was clean and safe.

The hospital’s 2016 quality accounts said 46 per cent of its patients were NHS commissioned. The document said 97.6 per cent of patients and 95.7 per cent of staff recommended the hospital, and also that “patients rate the cleanliness of our facilities highly”.

However, inspectors found that parts of the hospital were “visibly not clean” and “staff were not complying with infection prevention and control policies”, which was putting patients at risk of infection.

The CQC also said “management of governance and risk was limited”, with senior managers “often making an assumption about the quality of care rather than actively seeking assurances”. Patient records were not always complete, while there was “minimal evidence of learning” from incidents.

Staff also did not have adequate understanding of caring for patients with dementia.

NHS England data shows BMI’s hospitals treated 101,612 NHS elective patients in 2016, and had 158,174 first NHS outpatient appointments.

The CQC lists 51 BMI hospitals and clinics. Of the 34 that have had full inspection reports published, 15 were rated good, 18 requires improvement and Fawkham Manor Hospital is inadequate.

One other BMI site – The Manor Hospital in Biddenham, Bedfordshire – has been rated inadequate in the well led domain. The report into that hospital was published in April 2016.

According to BMI Healthcare’s annual report and accounts for the 12 months to September 2015 – the most recent available – BMI made a £2.3m loss on a turnover of £879m.

BMI’s parent company, South Africa based Netcare, said NHS referrals from across the UK accounted for 41.6 per cent of BMI’s case mix.

A spokesman for Fawkham Manor Hospital said: “Since the initial inspection six months ago, we have been working to address the areas for improvement identified. This included closing the hospital for an extended period over Christmas while we invested £250,000 in theatre enhancements, strengthening the hospital management team and ensuring the correct safety systems and processes were fully implemented.

“Patient safety is our absolute priority, and we will not accept practices that fall short of the expectations that we – and our patients – have of the hospital. Whilst we are disappointed with the CQC’s findings, we are pleased that the CQC also saw evidence of the commitment of our staff and the compassionate care they deliver to patients.”