Headlines: March 19th, 2009

The Health Secretary Alan Johnson has ordered an independent review of accident and emergency care procedures at the trust which runs Stafford Hospital.

It follows a Healthcare Commission investigation into high mortality rates in patients admitted as emergencies to the hospital. These found deficiencies at virtually every stage of emergency care at the trust – from the time patients arrived at A&E, through to the emergency assessment unit, and subsequent admission to a surgical or medical ward.

Problems identified included low staffing levels, inadequate nursing, lack of equipment, poor training and ineffective systems for identifying when things went wrong.

The independent review will be carried out by Professor Sir George Alberti, National Clinical Director for Urgent and Emergency Care, and will report in five weeks’ time.

The Healthcare Commission has looked at other trusts with similarly high standardised mortality ratios and is confident that a similar succession of serious lapses in care has not occurred elsewhere.

The National Quality Board has also been asked to look at how early signs that something is going wrong could be picked up quicker.