Patient safety alert fears in Norfolk

Hayley MaceHospitals and health trusts in Norfolk and Suffolk have been accused of putting patients' safety at unnecessary risk by failing to comply with more than 60 NHS orders designed to prevent deaths and mistakes.Hayley Mace

Hospitals and health trusts in Norfolk and Suffolk have been accused of putting patient safety at unnecessary risk by failing to comply with more than 60 NHS orders designed to prevent deaths and mistakes.

Department of Health figures have shown that NHS Norfolk, NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney and the trusts that run the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital and James Paget University Hospital, Gorleston, were among 82 trusts in the UK that had not complied with 10 or more alerts issued between 2004 and last December.

The alerts, issued by the National Patient Safety Agency, tell NHS trusts to act on problems including:

Reducing the risk of patients falling out of bed.

Ensuring that injected medicines are used more safely.

Encouraging hand-washing to prevent spread of infection.

Most Read

Avoiding feeding tubes being fitted incorrectly.

Details of the exact alerts not completed by each trust have not been made available.

NHS Yarmouth and Waveney had not complied with 22 alerts by the December deadline, but all have now been completed.

Associate medical director Sandeep Chandra said: "We acknowledge there was a backlog in terms of sign-ing off past alerts. However, these alerts had been reviewed and actioned where necessary. We are also reviewing how we deal with these alerts more efficiently."

Fourteen alerts were not confirmed as completed by the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Lyn Taylor, its risk manager, said they had now all been carried out, adding: "Due to staff sickness there has been a delay in updating the central database system, so some alerts are showing as outstanding when in fact we have undertaken the required actions. This situation is being rectified."

The figures, obtained after a free-dom of information act request by Action Against Medical Accidents, also showed that NHS Norfolk had not complied with 15 alerts.

Jonathan Cook, trust director of corporate services, said: "We expect all our providers to ensure that patient safety alerts and recommen-dations which require action are acted upon within required time-scales and take any reports to the contrary very seriously."

The James Paget University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust failed to comply with 10 alerts. A spokesman said: "Patient safety is our number-one priority and we have a robust system in place for monitor-ing and implementing patient safety alerts. We actively address all patient safety alerts and refine systems and processes where necessary."

Liberal Democrat health spokesman and North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said yesterday that patient safety had to be given priority above deadlines and targets.

He added: "These figures reveal a shocking number of hospitals that are not making basic changes to keep patients safe. It seems extraordinary to me that this is happening. The safety of patients needs to be the top priority, and boards of hospitals have to be held accountable."

And Stuart Gray, whose 70-year-old father David, who lived near Wisbech, died when he was given an overdose by a foreign locum, said: "I cannot comprehend why any NHS body would choose to ignore them.

"In fact, I would go so far as to say that I find it personally deeply offen-sive that they would do so, especially in light of the fact that my father was killed by being administered a massive drug overdose of diamor-phine ... in a situation where the OOH (out-of- hours) provider was not carrying the drug in line with NPSA guidelines."

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King's Lynn, NHS Trust missed fewer than 10 alerts between 2004-09.