March 20, 2009 / 8:59 AM / 10 years ago

Report finds serious risks at children's hospital

LONDON (Reuters) - Patients being treated at Birmingham Children’s Hospital faced “serious potential risks,” a health watchdog report said on Friday.

The Healthcare Commission said it had found a series of problems at the hospital ranging from a lack of beds to brain surgery being carried out without properly trained nurses.

“While we have no evidence of serious incidents causing harm to patients, the standard of care has not been as good as it should have been in some cases,” said Anna Walker, the commission’s chief executive.

“It is deeply concerning that serious issues were raised but not properly or rapidly addressed over several months. While I would not say there were ‘third-world’ conditions, there were serious potential risks in the way care was provided.”

Incidents included a specific drill needed for neurosurgery not working and no replacement available and surgeons being handed incorrect instruments — one surgeon had his hand unintentionally jogged during surgery.

The report was ordered by Health Secretary Alan Johnson after the concerns of consultants were publicised in the Observer newspaper in November.

The hospital said it had been “victims of our own success” and that action was already being taken to address the problem caused by extra demand on its services.

“We listened very carefully to those who gave us suggestions for improvements and now welcome the Healthcare Commission’s report, which reinforces our improvement agenda, whilst also confirming that there is no evidence of serious incidents causing harm to patients,” said Sarah-Jane Marsh, the hospital’s interim chief executive.

“Whilst we acknowledge that the issues raised were significant, the clinicians involved at the time managed all situations expertly. I sincerely regret any distress caused to children, young people and their families during this time.”

The report is the second this week from the Healthcare Commission to criticise hospital services.

On Tuesday, it said it had found “appalling” standards of emergency care at the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.

Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Steve Addison

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