Health watchdog, Monitor, is taking action against Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust following the revelation that it has consistently failed to meet targets and has made major mistakes that should never happen.

Monitor regulates Foundation Trusts. The watchdog was called into investigate the Trust when they failed to meet targets including those for cancer treatments and accident and emergency waiting times. They failed to meet targets on waiting times for cancer care in three successive quarters and missed their A&E targets for two quarters in a row.

Preventable failures

Following the investigation Monitor said its concerns about the targets were “compounded by multiple occurrences of preventable patient safety incidents and poor financial performance.”

It was revealed that there were 8 incidents on the “never” list – clinical mistakes that should never happen. They included two patients left with surgical instruments inside their bodies, two women left with tampons inside them following child birth and a patient having an operation on the wrong part of the body. There was also an incident with an eye patient who had to undergo corrective surgery when they received a lens intended for another patient who did not arrive at the operating theatre in time.

“Never Events” are something that Pannone have blogged about in the past and it is disappointing to see that these still occur.

With regard to Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Monitor has said “This is not the first time we have called the Trust in to explain itself. We are disappointed that the board has not resolved these issues. We note that the Trust has a new Chair and will shortly appoint a new Chief Executive. We expect them to demonstrate they are getting the Trust back on track as quickly as possible.”

Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust had the following to say after the publication of the report “We are determined to reverse the situation as soon as possible. We will be focussing on turning this Trust around. Our priority remains the care of our patients – they are at the heart of everything we do.”

One of a number of critical reports

Monitor has found three Trusts in significant breach of their terms of authorisation since September 2012. Kettering General Hospital NHS Foundation Trust was found to be in significant breach in October 2012 and Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which covers Mansfield, Ashfield, Newark, Sherwood and parts of Derbyshire and Lincolnshire, was found to be in significant breach in September 2012.

Openness is preferable

Poor standards in medical treatment are always disappointing. We act for many patients every year who have suffered injuries that were avoidable with the appropriate care and treatment.

The report will cause anxiety for patients. But it is a positive that these reports are published.

Patients can now hope that the Trust will improve as it has said it will. Other hospitals should also learn from the issues highlighted by Monitor.

Most importantly, patients are entitled to know the standard of health care that their local hospitals provide. The reports from Scotland today about secrecy in respect of poor / negligent medical treatment are very disappointing.

One way to ensure that health care standards improve is openness about mistakes. We have long supported the need for a duty of candour. Monitors report is not as good as a duty of candour for individual patients, but it goes some way to enabling patients to hold hospitals and the people who run them to account if they do not improve in the future.