Three in four NHS hospitals are unsafe, official watchdogs warned last night.
In an alarming report, they said casualty cases had been left in makeshift huts outside A&E. Other patients were given the wrong drugs or illegally sedated.
The Care Quality Commission also warned of a culture of bullying and blame, with staff scared to raise concerns or admit blunders.
The report came on the day that an NHS whistleblower was named by his shameless bosses. The professor had revealed that dozens of patients were needlessly put through the agony of chemotherapy.
The most comprehensive NHS assessment ever, the CQC’s 120-page report covers 150 hospitals. A shocking 74 per cent were graded either ‘inadequate’ or requiring ‘improvement’ in terms of patient safety.
The report’s authors noted desperate shortages of nurses and expressed their surprise and ‘intense concern’ at the low standards of care on some wards.
Responding to the findings, Janet Davies of the Royal College of Nursing said: ‘The quality of care is too often poor, and in some cases unsafe, and this requires urgent attention.
‘Too many senior nursing posts have been cut and the effects are now being felt.’
David Behan, who heads the CQC, said care standards varied around the country.
‘A key concern has been the safety of care – a failure to learn when things go wrong, or not having the right number of staff in place with the right skills,’ he added. ‘Where people are not receiving the quality of care they deserve, we will demand action.’ The report is further evidence that the NHS is struggling to care for an ageing population on a restricted budget. Last week it emerged that hospitals went £1billion into the red in the first three months of this year and waiting times are rising sharply.
The CQC highlighted stark figures showing that 22 per cent of NHS staff have been bullied, harassed or abused by colleagues or managers. And since April 2010, hospitals have lost 2,800 senior nurses while junior staff have not had basic training in dementia or end-of-life care.
The CQC inspected half of England’s hospitals between March 2014 and this May using a rigorous, new scoring system.
Each was given one of four grades: outstanding, good, requires improvement or inadequate. They were judged on safety, leadership, being caring, effectiveness and responsiveness. Just 26 per cent of hospitals were deemed to be good on safety and not one was outstanding.
In terms of overall care, 65 per cent of hospitals rated as requiring improvement or inadequate. Inspectors found examples of staff failing to take measures to prevent the spread of infections.
At some hospitals, including Medway Maritime in Kent, patients were kept on trolleys overnight on a ‘portable’ unit outside A&E due to a lack of space.
Elsewhere, staff were failing to keep records up to date or storing medicines in fridges that were too warm. The CQC found evidence that staff were restraining or sedating patients illegally.
Doctors or nurses must seek approval from their local NHS board if they want to lock patients in rooms or sedate them to prevent them coming to harm.
The CQC’s report extended to inspections of 8,318 residential homes and home help agencies and 1,852 GP surgeries.
It found that 10 per cent of care homes were inadequate or requiring improvement for safety, including one where mould was growing on walls.
Twenty-five per cent of GP surgeries required improvement for safety and 8 per cent were inadequate.
Mr Behan stressed that the majority of patients were treated well and that many staff were dedicated and compassionate.
But Katherine Murphy of the Patients Association said: ‘It is worrying to see that there is still such variation in the quality of care being delivered.
‘This cannot continue. The safety of patients should be the primary concern of all healthcare professionals.’
Labour’s health spokesman, Heidi Alexander, said: ‘Jeremy Hunt cannot keep ignoring these serious warnings about unsafe and understaffed hospitals.
‘Under the Tories, nurse numbers haven’t kept pace with demand, and training places have been cut. This has left some hospital wards without enough nurses and has put patient safety at risk.’
Health Secretary Mr Hunt said: ‘We want to make our NHS the safest healthcare system in the world.
‘There are some excellent examples of high quality care across the country but the level of variation is unacceptable.’
First published on The Daily Mail website.