• Eight operating theatres upgraded at John Radcliffe Hospital after £1m refurbishment project 
  • Work follows CQC inspection in November last year during which officials warned theatres in state of disrepair 
  • Trust spokeswoman says upgrade work was planned before CQC inspection

A series of theatre upgrades have been carried out at an Oxford hospital after inspectors found major infection risks at the site.

Oxford University Hospitals Foundation Trust reopened eight theatres at the John Radcliffe Hospital this week following the £1m refurbishment project, which was paid for from the trust’s capital budget.

Following an inspection in November, Care Quality Commission officials told OUH to take urgent action after they found theatres at the JRH were in such poor repair they could not be adequately cleaned.

The CQC imposed three conditions on the trust based on the JRH’s surgical services – ordering it to ensure all windows in theatre doors are closed, producing an action plan to assess and reduce the risk of infection in theatres, and submitting a weekly report to the CQC to describe what actions have been taken – and downgraded its rating from “good” to “requires improvement”.

Work on the refurbishment project began in April, although a trust spokeswoman said it was planned before the CQC inspection last year.

New cabinets have been built at the theatres after inspectors raised concerns about surgical products being stored on the floor, while new electrical wiring and flooring has been installed.

Some operations were transferred to the JRH’s West Wing while the theatres in the main part of the hospital were being upgraded.

According to OUH’s September board papers, predicted demand in elective care was “heavily weighted” from April to August 2019 to “reflect the closure of the theatres”.

The number of patients on the trust’s elective care waiting list rose during the months the eight theatres were closed. In July 53,277 patients were on the waiting list, compared to around 50,500 in April.

JRH’s main hospital theatres’ chief matron Caroline Tompkins said: “Initially, it seemed a daunting task to close the theatres, transfer everything to the West Wing, coordinate our daily operations and then move us back here. But, with fantastic teamwork and very detailed planning, we can all be very proud of what we have achieved.

“If today we can benefit from this renewed facility, it is because everybody, from the clinicians and managers to the porters and cleaners, has gone the extra mile to make it possible.

“All the improvements have transformed our theatre area and have had a powerful and positive impact on our morale. We all feel happier working in such a bright place.”

During the November inspection, the CQC found “storage in the main theatres could increase the risk of infection” as intravenous fluid was stored on the floor in boxes, while equipment was kept in open corridors.

The CQC report also warned patients’ “privacy and dignity” was compromised as the air handling units blew the theatre door ajar.

An OUH spokeswoman said: “The trust was aware that the theatres at the JRH required some refurbishment works, and had already been planning a schedule of remedial works for April 2019 at the time of the CQC inspection in November 2018.

“Following the improvement notice issued by the CQC, we took immediate action including further minimising infection risks, carrying out remedial work to floors and cupboards, improving storage facilities and adding privacy screens to all anaesthetic and theatre doors.

“The refurbishment works then started in April and finished in August as planned.”