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Thursday will go down as a bleak day in the history of the NHS with the revelation that a maintenance supervisor sexually abused at least 100 bodies in a hospital mortuary.

David Fuller used his position to access the mortuary at, first, the Kent and Sussex Hospital and, then, the Tunbridge Wells Hospital to abuse female bodies over a period of 12 years. His crimes only came to light when he was arrested for the murder of two women and police found videos and photos of the abuse hidden in his house.

The full magnitude of what his crimes mean for the NHS is only just beginning to emerge but there are already MPs calling for a public inquiry, in addition to the investigation the trust has launched.

His actions are almost beyond comprehension and that may explain why much of regulatory structure around mortuaries does not appear to anticipate such events. Instead, they focus on issues such as the traceability of bodies and support for lone workers who may be at risk.

Whether that framework will continue seems unlikely – at the very least trusts are likely to introduce the sort of changes Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Trust, which runs the Tunbridge Wells Hospital, has done.

And one other thing which may change is trust in staff: Mr Fuller, who was employed by first the NHS and then a contractor, was trusted to sort out problems in the mortuary and had free access to it including when other staff were not present. That trusted status which gives unfettered access to sensitive areas may one day be a thing of the past for anyone.

‘Outstanding’ but ‘unsafe’

An acute trust currently rated “outstanding” has been served with a warning notice by the Care Quality Commission, just days after after HSJ reported on a letter from consultants highlighting “an extremely unsafe situation”.

The senior doctors’ safety concerns – which included calling for elective work to be moved away from one of the trust’s main hospitals – prompted a CQC inspection of University Hospitals Sussex Foundation Trust.

The inspection looked at surgical areas at the Royal Sussex County Hospital, in Brighton, and maternity services at four sites – the RSCH, St Richard’s in Chichester, Worthing Hospital and the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath.

In a letter to all staff, seen by HSJ, chief executive Dame Marianne Griffiths said the trust was “striving to improve” but that “the last four months are like nothing I have ever seen before. Like others we are facing unprecedented daily challenges”.

She said: “High patient numbers combined with continuing to work through the pandemic with the stringent infection prevention and control processes that entails make for a challenging work environment.”