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The full wash-up of how the NHS coped with the covid pandemic may well be some time off but there are some tiny hints of where problems may have lain in an unpublished Health and Safety Executive report.
The HSE inspected 17 acute hospitals – 13 in England, and two each in Scotland and Wales – in covid-related spot checks and found nearly half were in breach of laws around health and safety. Only five had high levels of compliance with measures to manage the risks around covid. The remaining four were “given advice”.
Key areas of concern seem to have been social distancing away from the patient bedside and other clinical areas, and adequate arrangements for using personal protective equipment effectively.
What is perhaps most surprising was that these inspections were not in the first wave of covid but between November last year and January this year. Although hospitals were increasingly becoming busy with covid patients at this time, many of the measures to make them more covid secure might have been expected to have bedded in by then.
What is not clear – and may never be – is the impact of these failings. Did more patients become infected because PPE was not used effectively? Did staff catch covid from mingling in rest areas and changing rooms? And perhaps most importantly – could the NHS have done more to stop this?
Beef settled, bread required
The government’s NHS property company has largely addressed the crux of its dispute with tenants, but it might need extra funding if it is to be lifted out of debt.
NHS Property Services CEO Martin Steele told HSJ that it had now agreed tenancy details with nearly all the providers who use its buildings, a target set for it following a lambasting from the Commons public accounts committee.
In autumn 2019, PAC said NHSPS was “set up to fail” and accused it — and the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England/Improvement — of “failing miserably” to end a large number of rent/income disputes with its tenants.
It criticised the system underlying NHSPS, under which large proportions of its tenants did not have lease agreements and have disputed its charges. Responding to this, the DHSC told NHSPS to put what are known as “deemed agreements” with tenants in 95 per cent of its properties by March 2021.
Mr Steele told HSJ that 97 per cent of its properties now have a form of “deemed agreement” in place. But NHSPS still needed more external funding or a policy change on how it is paid for. Read the full interview here.