An NHS hospital which last week failed a surprise inspection has taken the unusual step of reporting 563 of its own “serious failings” in the past two years, an admission of potential avoidable deaths, abuse, and infectious outbreaks, in the latest blow to the reputation of Britain’s National Health Service.
The data has come from the troubled Colchester hospital, which has previously been accused of tampering with data to hide waiting time target failings, tampering with cancer data, and last week was found to be abusing elderly and demented patients. Inspectors found cases of individuals being sedated without consent, and “inappropriate restraint” being used on dementia sufferers.
It is not known what exactly the serious failings are, as this data has not been released and is unlikely to be without government intervention. However these sorts of cases do not refer to all deaths, as a certain number are expected in the hospital environment, rather they refer to ‘excess’ deaths, ones caused by negligence, or sudden unexpected deaths.
All British hospitals keep these records of failings internal investigations or reporting structures record, but they are generally kept secret, and not released to the public in this way. The figures released so far only record problems the hospital itself acknowledges.
The situation in Colchester is believed to be so bad that patients have been told to only visit the hospital if their condition is life-threatening.
The Guardian newspaper, which was given these figures also reported the comments of Peter Walsh, the chief executive of the charity Action against Medical Accidents. He said the figures were suspiciously high for what is a relatively small hospital: “This is a gut feeling, but from my experience that sounds on the high side. It sounds like an unusually high number of incidents.
“These things are under-reported, so it’s not possible to say if a large number of incidents is a sign of a good reporting process or that a lot of things go wrong. It could be either. So the figures should be treated with caution”.
One patient at the hospital said different departments were offering different levels of care, saying: “I am receiving treatment for a gynaecological condition and my treatment has been wonderful, However, my daughter, who died at the hospital, received appalling treatment.
“She often went to A&E in excruciating pain and was told by some of the nurses that she was making the whole thing up. When I was an in-patient at the hospital following a fracture I witnessed two of the elderly patients being treated appallingly”.
A spokesman for the trust which controls the hospital said their internal investigation system to prevent future “incidents” was “foolproof” in a statement.