NHS ‘cover-up’ and cancellations attacked by Baillie

A reported ‘cover-up’ at one hospital and the cancellation of hundreds of clinics at another have been highlighted by MSP Jackie Baillie.

The Dumbarton constituency MSP is calling for an investigation after receiving documents from an NHS whistleblower who is accusing Healthcare Improvement Scotland of dismissing concerns over bed overcrowding at the Royal Alexandra Hospital (RAH) during an inspection in September 2012.

And a Freedom of Information request by the Labour politician has revealed that 687 scheduled clinics at the Vale of Leven Hospital were cancelled between January 2011 and March 2013.

The RAH whistleblower claims that inspectors were informed on several occasions that bed spacing in the Day Surgery Unit had failed to meet NHS guidelines for infection control for a number of years.

In their notes inspectors identify the problem with the lack of space between beds but this never makes it through to the final report.

The Standard Infection Control Precautions indicate that in a multi-bed unit, each bed space should be not less than 3.0m x 2.7m (bed centre to bed centre), with a minimum of 1.2m of clearance at either side of a bed to facilitate clinical and support activities.

At the RAH day surgery unit with wards of eight beds, spacing between beds was as narrow as 1.3m, much less than that required.

Although NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has subsequently taken action on non-compliant bed spacing in December 2012, the NHS  whistleblower believes that the health board should have taken action sooner, not least following the c.diff outbreak at the Vale of Leven hospital, in 2007.

Jackie Baillie said: “I will be calling on the current Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, Alex Neil and John Glennie, acting chief executive of Healthcare Improvement Scotland, to conduct a full investigation in to these allegations.

“It is simply not acceptable for substantive issues about infection control, captured in the notes of the inspection, to be whitewashed away in the final report.

“After the tragic outbreak of c. Diff at the Vale in 2007, no-one can afford to be complacent. We rightly expect those carrying out inspections to be completely open and transparent in their reports.”

The FOI request revealed that at the Vale of Leven Hospital the urology clinic suffered the highest number of cancellations, with 27.2% of appointments cancelled in the last two years.

Other clinics that exceeded a 20% cancellation rate included ENT and medical paediatrics.

There was a 100% record for both oncology and haematology clinics with not one cancellation during this period. Jackie said:

“Clinics were a key part of the vision for the Vale, but despite all the promises made, we are seeing too many clinics being cancelled and people having to wait even longer or travel further for a service.

“When people are ill they want access to good medical services that are close to home in the quickest possible timeframe.

“I will write to Robert Calderwood, chief executive of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, to ask why so many clinics were cancelled at the Vale Hospital and what steps are being taken to prevent such a high number of cancellations in the future.”