Hospital issued with enforcement action as children’s services rated inadequate

A hospital has been issued with enforcement action after its children’s services were rated inadequate by health inspectors, who found corridors filled with children and adults waiting to be seen.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) said that the Skylark ward, which provides care for children at Kettering General Hospital (KGH), was understaffed and inspectors found evidence of poor record-keeping, as well as a lack of equipment such as thermometers, which could put patients at risk.

The watchdog lowered the rating of how safe and well-led the children and young person (CYP) services are at the Northamptonshire hospital (pictured) from “requires improvement” to “inadequate” following the inspection in December.

The watchdog also rated the urgent and emergency services at the KGH as “requires improvement” and said that a lack of staff and appropriate training meant patients did not always receive the right care, with its safety rating also lowered to “inadequate”.

The KGH NHS Foundation Trust, which manages the site, said it “sincerely apologises” to families who have felt “let down by our services”.

Charlotte Rudge, the CQC’s deputy director of operations in the Midlands, said: “Inspectors found safety issues in both services we visited. The environment didn’t always keep people safe.

“For example, the layout of Skylark ward didn’t always support the safe management of people with mental health conditions or challenging behaviours.

“Most cubicles were close to each other, which meant it was easy for people to go in other people’s rooms and access equipment left lying around, which could put people at risk of harm.

“Also, there were concerns with the environment in the paediatric emergency department. The space wasn’t appropriate to manage the number of attendances, particularly at times of increased demand.

“For example, inspectors saw corridors and walkways full of children and parents or carers waiting to be seen.

“In an emergency, this could have impacted on staff not being able to effectively care for someone in urgent need of attention.”

The site has been issued with a Section 29A warning notice, which requires it to make improvements in several areas in the name of patient safety.

It comes as a result of two unannounced visits by CQC inspectors on December 6 and December 19 last year.

In March, the BBC reported that several families had raised concerns over the care given to children on the Skylark ward, a 26-bed unit, including diagnosis delays and staff allegedly withholding pain relief.

Inspectors found many instances of notes not being accurately kept on children’s temperatures, and observations being frequently missed, with one patient who was due to be seen every hour having to wait three-and-a-half hours between checks.

The ward was not always clean and infection risks were not always well controlled, including the risk of sepsis, with one patient who was later diagnosed with the disease having to wait seven hours to be checked.

However, the watchdog said that staff did know how to protect children and their families, and processes were in place to manage patient safety incidents and patients in need of a higher level of care.

The inspection of the ward did not encompass how effective and responsive CVP services at the trust are, which was most recently rated as “requires improvement”, or how caring they are, which was last rated as “good”.

The KGH’s overall CQC rating remains as “requires improvement”.

Deborah Needham, chief executive of KGH, said: “We accept the findings of today’s CQC report and the clear message it contains, of the need to significantly improve the way we deliver children and young people’s services.

“I would like to sincerely apologise to any families who feel they have been let down by our services.

“Immediately after the CQC’s inspection in December, we launched a comprehensive improvement programme to look at the issues raised and decide how we can resolve them.”

Some of the steps taken include moving the paediatric A&E ward to create more space and increasing core staff levels across its children’s services.

The trust also said that it had recruited a new director of nursing and medical director to ensure staff were fully aware of trust policies and training, as well as other improvements.

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