Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Surrey Hospitals Shamed; 'Spiral of Decline Betrays NHS Patients and Staff'

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Surrey Hospitals Shamed; 'Spiral of Decline Betrays NHS Patients and Staff'

Article excerpt


TWO MAJOR hospitals in the Surrey commuter belt have been fiercely criticised for betraying patients, in a damning government report published today. Urgent action is needed to lift Epsom General Hospital and St Helier Hospital in Carshalton out of a "spiral of decline", according to the watchdog, Commission for Health Improvement.

The report follows an inquiry into the Epsom and St Helier Trust, the management group which runs the two hospitals. A catalogue of errors includes high death rates, trolley waits of up to 20 hours and wards smelling of urine.

Nigel Sewell, the trust's chief executive, has agreed to "step down" ahead of the publication of the report which is the most serious of the 20 reviews of NHS Trusts which have been completed so far. Problems highlighted after investigators scrutinised the trust between January and July this year include: High death rates, particularly after emergency surgery.

Patients discharged from critical care units "prematurely" due to a lack of nurses and beds.

Trolley waits in accident and emergency of up to 20 hours.

Severe nursing shortages, leading to over-reliance on agency staff, only one senior being in charge of some wards and junior doctors covering nursing duties.

A "them and us" management style with staff afraid to speak up when things go wrong.

Patients' complaints taking over three years to resolve.

Cleanliness "seriously compromised".

Geoff Martin, director of pressure group London Health Emergency, and London convener for Unison, said: "The report confirms that St Helier is a hospital in crisis - locked in a spiral of decline with devastating consequences for patient care. The unions have been warning for years that the hospital urgently needs a major capital investment to replace the crumbling buildings which were condemned 20 years ago."

Mortality rates at the two hospitals are "significantly higher than the national average" and death rates following emergency surgery higher than any other trust in a comparison with similar sized organisations throughout the country.

At St Helier Hospital, death rates within 30 days of emergency surgery are almost twice the national average. …

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