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The serious care failings the NHS tried to keep secret


The NHS has kept secret dozens of external reviews of failings in local services – covering possible premature deaths, unnecessary and harmful operations, and rows among doctors putting patients at risk – an HSJ investigation has found.

At least 70 external reviews by medical royal colleges were carried out from 2016 to 2019, across 47 trusts, according to information provided by NHS trusts, but more than 60 of these have never been published – contrary to national guidance – while several have not even been shared with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and other regulators. These include reviews which uncovered serious failings.

Bill Kirkup’s review into the Morecambe Bay scandal in 2015 recommended trusts should “report openly” all external investigations into clinical services, governance or other aspects of their operations, including notifying the CQC. 

Since then the CQC has asked trusts for details of external reviews when it reviews evidence, and in July 2018 it began to ask for copies of their final reports, but HSJ’s research suggests this does not always happen.

James Titcombe, the patient safety campaigner whose son’s death led to the inquiry by Bill Kirkup into the Morecambe Bay maternity care scandal, said a review was now needed of whether its recommendations had been implemented.

“It is not acceptable that five years [on], there are still secretive royal college reports and patients are kept in the dark,” he said.

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Source: HSJ, 25 June 2020

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