The must read stories and debate in the NHS

Coroner’s concerns

The safety of NHS patients treated in private hospitals has been raised directly with health secretary Jeremy Hunt following the death of an NHS patient.

Assistant coroner for Manchester West Simon Nelson has written to the health and social care secretary warning about poor processes for emergency transfers, the lack of responsibility private companies have for consultants they use, and junior doctors working alone for 24 hour shifts with a lack of training and monitoring.

He has given Mr Hunt until next month to respond, following his investigation into the care of 77 year old Peter O’Donnell. Mr O’Donnell, who was an NHS patient, died in January 2017 after hip replacement surgery at BMI Healthcare’s Beaumont Hospital in Bolton.

At the inquest hearing, the coroner explained he had decided to write to Mr Hunt, in part because of reading a recent report published by the think tank the Centre for Health and the Public Interest. He said: “I have some very real concerns about the quality of treatment within the private sector.”

A review by the Care Quality Commission earlier this month highlighted concerns over the safety of private hospitals and the reliance on using 999 calls to transfer unwell patients to NHS hospitals due to a lack of critical care facilities.

Never events

An outstanding rated trust had 10 never events in 2017-18 – including four involving wrong site surgery.

Frimley Health Foundation Trust had two further incidents of wrong site spinal surgery, which were initially treated as never events but then downgraded in line with the latest national guidance on never events. A thirteenth incident took place that the commissioner felt was not a never event.

In 2016-17, the trust had four never events and in 2015-16, there were six.

The trust said none of the events in 2017-18 resulted in severe or long term harm but its board papers for February show, of the seven cases reported at that time, six resulted in minor harm and one in moderate harm.

A trust statement said: “The trust takes any incident very seriously and particularly never events. We believe in being open and transparent when they occur and we share any learning internally and with our external partners. All have either been investigated or are currently under investigation using the nationally recognised root cause analysis tools.

“Those completed have action plans in place that are monitored through a variety of committees both internally and externally by our commissioners.”