Crisis continues at Gorleston hospital

An MP has called for heads to roll at the James Paget University Hospital as the crisis deepens over the quality of care it provides to patients.

Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey has called for the chairman of the hospital trust John Hemming to consider his position in the wake of the emergency.

She fears the hospital has not done enough to satisfy regulators and that it is poised to fail its third Care Quality Commission inspection.

Pressure has been mounting on the hospital for several weeks to explain what has gone wrong and what it is doing to put the problems right.

Dr Coffey had hoped yesterday afternoon to raise the issue during a Commons debate on NHS care of older people. In a statement released to the Mercury, she said: “After the first inspection, I was assured that this was a blip and doubt was cast upon the quality of the inspection by the chairman of the hospital trust.

“I did not accept that but was somewhat reassured by the expectation of changes that were underway.

“However, the second inspection continued to find failings in dealings with older patients. Though I did not meet the hospital management or chairman after that inspection, my colleagues Peter Aldous and Brandon Lewis did. I was certainly not assured by the report of that meeting.

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“Together we have agreed a course of action to press the hospital on its improvements for our constituents. Since then, a third inspection has been held. I am highly concerned that a third failure will be reported.

“Monitor [an independent watchdog, accountable to Parliament] has now issued a red governance rating. As such, I do think it is my role to press the leadership of the James Paget Hospital on behalf of constituents. In particular, I do think that the chairman of the hospital trust should be considering his position.

“I appreciate that the financial risk of the hospital is low which may reflect good financial governance but the key is patient care. So while, the chairman has provided useful leadership, with two failed inspections on care and the possibility of a third, I think it is time he steps aside and allows new leadership to come forward.”

Monitor issued a warning to the James Paget University Hospital after it failed its second Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection in six months. It will assess the evidence provided by the CQC and the action taken by the hospital’s board of directors to ensure a high standard of governance in the future.

It will now carry out its assessment within the next two months and has the power to replace board members at the Gorleston hospital if it feels standards are not met.

The regulator placed the hospital on the highest level of governance risk - red - on September 27. It came the day after the James Paget received a formal warning from the CQC.

Meanwhile, yesterday the hospital revealed it had taken the unusual step of closing one of its wards to new admissions in a bid to address serious concerns over the standard of care.

The ward stopped receiving any new patients for 10 days so that staff training could take place in the wake of the damning second report by the CQC.

The closure was a decision taken by the hospital on its own initiative, rather than being imposed by the CQC, to address the concerns raised around dignity and nutrition.

A spokesman for Monitor said: “Following the warning notice issued by the CQC, we have required the trust to explain their position and are considering placing them under close scrutiny with a view to assessing what other action may be required to address our concerns.

“These are very important issues for patients that must be resolved. The CQC have primary responsibility for issues of quality, as the quality and safety inspectorate for all NHS organisations, and we take their advice very seriously.

“We will now look into whether these issues are indicative of problems in the governance of the trust and will work closely with the CQC to ensure the trust makes improvements to patient services where they are needed. We expect the trust to respond quickly and effectively to deliver the required improvements.”

MP for Great Yarmouth Brandon Lewis said: “Doctors, nurses and front-line staff are doing a good job to look after residents at the James Paget University Hospital, but I am becoming quite concerned about the way the management is handling things.

“It’s now clear that the problems have been going on for some time and it has not been rectified. It needs to be made clear as to how this is going to be sorted out for the future.”

The hospital failed its second CQC inspection when it was discovered that some staff had ignored elderly dementia patients and left their food to go cold on bedside tables.

Inspectors also identified lapses in hospital procedures where staff had failed to record nutrition charts meaning some patients did not receive the food and drink they needed.

A spokesman for the hospital said: “The trust works closely with Monitor as it does with all of our regulatory bodies. “Any findings from CQC inspections are shared with Monitor and the rating adjusted in line with their compliance framework.

“Following the CQC inspections this year, the trust has responded to the issues highlighted and our focus is on our patients and their experience at this hospital.

“The work we have undertaken around our action plan continues and the recent feedback from patients and visitors indicates we are making improvements.”

Speaking about the decision to close the ward, the hospital added: “As part of our ongoing improvement work at the hospital, the trust took the decision to close one ward to new admissions for a period of time.

“This was to allow for intensive training, staff development and enhanced clinical leadership. This work has now been completed.”