Hospital behind on safety alerts

CAMPAIGNERS claim the trust which runs King’s Mill Hospital is putting lives at risk by missing deadlines to complete action on ‘patient safety alerts’.

The national alerts are issued when potentially dangerous scenarios are spotted in health services, such as drug overdose risks or inefficient procedures.

Statistics released by the Department of Health showed Sherwood Forest Hospitals had not complied with six national alerts within deadline by January this year.

This has now fallen to three outstanding alerts, although the trust is more than three years over the deadline for one of them.

The trust is supposed to have made changes meant to ensure radiology imaging results are communicated and acted on properly by 28th February 2008, but this has still not been completed.

Independent charity Action Against Medical Accidents (AvMA) says not acting on the alerts quickly fails to reduce risks.

Trust bosses pointed to the scope of the work involved in enacting the alerts and say they are working hard to complete them.

Peter Walsh, chief executive of AvMA, said: “The deadline given is carefully considered and there’s consideration about whether it’s possible and reasonable for every trust in the country to meet it.

“The Department of Health says it’s mandatory to comply with the deadlines and I don’t think there can be any excuse for people being three years past one.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean the trust isn’t doing anything about it, but it does suggest they are not taking them seriously enough.

“Two out of the three outstanding alerts for Sherwood Forest Hospitals are designed to prevent the risk of deaths; people could suffer avoidable deaths if they are not completed.”

A February report on the issue from AvMA read: “There is still widespread non-compliance with patient safety alerts.

“Patients are being left at unnecessary risk, and it is inevitable that some patients have been needlessly harmed or even killed (nationally) as a result of non-compliance with patient safety alerts.”

Dr Richard Scott is a consultant medical physicist at the trust. He oversees the patient alert system for King’s Mill and Newark hospitals.

“Work starts immediately alerts are received, but they cannot be closed until all issues raised have been addressed and trust procedures updated as necessary,” said Dr Scott. 

“The challenge for the trust is that some of these alerts require action by a wide range of clinical specialities and we need to ensure all areas have completed the necessary actions in a consistent manner.”

One of the two other outstanding alerts relates to measures to ensure blood transfusions are administered safely.

The third involves ensuring proper communication with patients and families after a patient safety incident.

The former should have been complete by 1st May 2009 and the latter by 23rd November last year.

On the release of the February report, AvMA said: “While there has been a significant improvement since our report six months ago, half of NHS trusts still have not complied with at least one alert which is past its deadline.”

According to the January figures, Sherwood Forest Hospitals was one of 203 trusts across the country which had failed to comply with at least one safety alert.

Dr Scott added: “Members of the public can be assured that the three outstanding alerts have trust staff working on them as I speak for the benefit of patient safety.”  

A Department of Health spokesman said: “The NHS must continue to work hard to implement these alerts and maintain a culture of patient safety above all else.

“Our modernisation plans make it clear that unsafe care is not to be tolerated. We expect all NHS trusts to comply with safety alerts, including recording that action has been taken, in order to minimise any risks in the future.”

An NHS Nottinghamshire County spokesperson said: “Patient safety is our top priority. As the local commissioners, we meet regularly with local trusts to review patient safety alerts and ensure safe systems are in place.

“We always take action to ensure that patients experience good quality, safe and effective care.”