Revealed: safety fears at King Edward VII hospital, used by the royal family

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The private hospital used by the royal family was today ordered by health inspectors to improve patient safety, the Standard can reveal.

King Edward VII’s hospital, in Marylebone, was found to have a shortage of emergency breathing equipment, a “backlog” of 671 incomplete investigations into patient incidents and no medical records of outpatients. 

There were concerns about its senior managers, the “lack of oversight” of its 233 consultants and the failure of some doctors to follow basic “bare below the elbow” rules on infection control.

The hospital was rated as “requires improvement” by the Care Quality Commission — the second lowest of four possible scores — and served with two formal “requirement notices” after breaching regulations. 

King Edward’s, which has been used in recent years by the Queen, Prince Philip and the Duchess of Cambridge, today said it was “extremely disappointed” with the rating and vowed to improve.

Prince William and the pregnant Duchess of Cambridge leaving the King Edward VII hospital

CQC inspectors spent three days in January and February interviewing staff and patients at the 55-bed hospital, which opened in 1899.

Inspectors said the fact that an intubation trolley, used to treat patients with “difficult airways”, had to be shared between surgery and critical care —which were on different floors of the hospital — could place people at risk.

In the year to last September, 181 clinical incidents were reported. Of these, 121 resulted in no harm, 39 in minimal harm, 17 in short-term harm and four in death.

Queen Elizabeth II leaving King Edward VII Hospital after being treated there in 2013 (PA)

A total of eight deaths were reported to the CQC. There were 28 patient falls, a comparatively high number. Patients were not always referred for palliative care quickly enough to ensure a “peaceful death”. 

Surgery was rated “requires improvement” as the medicines cabinet was regularly left unlocked. The hospital was rated as “requires improvement” for safety and in terms of being “well-led”. It was rated “good” for caring and the effectiveness of its services.

The CQC’s then-chief inspector of hospitals, Professor Sir Mike Richards, said: “We had concerns senior leaders did not have oversight on incident investigations.

“We saw no evidence that action plans had been developed and shared with staff. The risk register did not match the risks we found and identified within the service. We were not assured there was appropriate consultant cover.” 

The hospital, which treats about 4,000 patients a year, was told it must:

Maintain “accurate, complete and contemporaneous” records of the care and treatment given to patients.

“Operate effective systems or processes to assess, monitor and improve the quality and safety of the services provided”.

Provide sufficient equipment to “ensure the safety of patients and to meet their needs”.

Prince Philip spent two nights at the hospital in June with an infection. He has received care there several times. The Queen was admitted in 2013 with gastroenteritis — her first hospital stay in almost a decade. It was also where the Duchess of Cambridge was treated for severe morning sickness in 2012. 

The hospital said: “King Edward VII’s hospital places the delivery of the highest standards of medical and nursing care to patients as our priority.

“We were pleased to note the commission’s positive review of our work as caring, effective and responsive. We note, however, that the commission has identified a number of governance processes that, in their judgment, fell short of their requirements. 

“We have already addressed many of these areas, and everyone at the hospital is fully engaged in a rigorous action plan to further improve the processes which were identified.”

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