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Tuesday 22nd
posted by Peter Lazenby in Britain

A MAJOR health service trust was placed in special measures yesterday after inspectors discovered a litany of problems including staff shortages, broken equipment, and dangerous levels of a toxic gas.

Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Addenbrooke’s Hospital, was investigated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

It praised staff for their dedication, but found staff shortages and long-standing “serious” problems that had been ignored.

Inspectors discovered a low midwife-to-birth ratio, wards regularly closed and major staff shortages causing inadequate ward cover, including in critical care.

They also found that transfer of staff from ward to ward to cover shortages meant staff were working in areas for which they were not trained.

The practice of a staff member supporting a birthing mother’s leg as the birthing stirrup was broken was declared “unacceptable.”

Other findings included high levels of nitrous oxide — which can cause dizziness, unconsciousness and even death — in the hospital’s birth centre, where it is used for pain relief.

Managers knew about the high levels for two years but simply advised staff to open windows.

A failure to follow guidelines on foetal heart rate monitoring during birth and risk of blood clots were also spotted.

Some continuing risks identified by the trust had been recognised in 2006.

The CQC recommended that Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust — which is reported to be running a weekly deficit of £1.2 million — and East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust be placed in special measures, taking the total number of NHS trusts in special measures to 15.

Cambridge trust chief executive Dr Keith McNeil and Addenbrooke’s chief finance officer Paul James resigned last week before publication of the CQC’s report.

CQC chief inspector of hospitals Professor Sir Mike Richards said staff transfers to unfamiliar departments meant “patient safety and welfare was placed at risk.”

Addenbrooke’s was criticised last week after banning ice from patients’ water jugs to save £39,000 per year.