Parliamentary Health Ombudsman criticises Birmingham NHS hospital trust

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A Parliamentary Ombudsman has criticised an NHS hospital trust in Birmingham

A probe into patient safety issues in University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB) have raised “real concerns” like the Trust’s lack of transparency, culture and leadership.

The Parliamentary Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) uncovered a number of significant concerns during recent and ongoing investigations. These concerns included a defensive approach when discussing patient safety issues with them, UHB’s failure to fully accept or acknowledge the impact of the findings from investigations, including an avoidable death, and UHB’s approach to the duty of care towards its staff.

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The UHB recently had a change in leadership after the Ombudsman triggered the Emerging Concerns Protocol in August 2022. The protocol refers to a process for regulators and oversight bodies to share information that may indicate risks to people using services, their carers, families or professionals.

The UHB sites include the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Edgbaston, Birmingham Chest Clinic in Birmingham City Centre, Good Hope Hospital in Sutton Coldfield, Heartlands Hospital in Bordesley Green, Solihull Hospital and the Norman Power Centre in Ladywood.

Three reviews were commissioned in to the Trust and the Ombudsman believed they’d be able to participate in two of them. However, they were advised that they will not be able to contribute to one of the reviews by NHS England (NHSE).

Ombudsman Rob Behrens said: “I’m extremely disappointed that NHSE denied us the opportunity to contribute to its review. It’s hard to see how the review can be evidence based if it doesn’t consider all the evidence. It raises real concerns around the completeness and transparency of these reviews.

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“We all share the same goal in wanting to see improvements at UHB so that people living in the West Midlands and using its services can access the best possible care with confidence. Working together and feeding our evidence and expertise into those reviews is by far the best way to achieve that goal.”

The PHSO have written to NHSE to highlight their concerns and to seek to understand why partner organisations have been excluded from contributing to these important reviews.

A letter was also sent to UHB’s interim Chief Executive to express their “disquiet regarding the previous leadership’s response to patient safety incidents at the Trust and its refusal to accept accountability or learn from past failings.”

Good Hope Hospital (Photo - Google Maps)Good Hope Hospital (Photo - Google Maps)
Good Hope Hospital (Photo - Google Maps)

UHB’s latest CQC rating

The Trust’s current Care Quality Commission rating from October 2021 shows it needs to improve in safety and responsiveness. The report added: “Patients were not always protected from harm. There were significant handover delays for patients arriving by ambulance and for those who self-presented to the department. Services did not manage medicines well. Not all staff had received mandatory and safeguarding training, however work was ongoing to improve this.

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“Individual needs were not always met. People could not always access the service when they needed it and received the right care promptly. Staff did not always feel respected, supported and valued. Leaders did not always run services well and did not always manage risk effectively.”

Queen Elizabeth  (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)Queen Elizabeth  (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

What UHB said

A spokesperson for University Hospitals Birmingham said: “The Chief Executive has responded to the PHSO, to provide reassurance that their concerns have been taken seriously and we have been working to arrange further meetings to agree how our organisations can work better together in the interests of our patients and staff.

“We are committed to working with the PHSO to ensure that all families have a clear understanding of any issues relating to their loved one’s care.”

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