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Boss of Southampton General Hospital apologises to families of patients who died amid concerns over care
YOU’RE safe with us. That is the message from the boss of Southampton General Hospital, who today apologises to the families of patients who died amid concerns over the standard of their care.
Chief executive Mark Hackett admitted that “mistakes and failings” do occur, but insisted that the hospital is one of the “safest hospitals in the country”.
He categorically denied that staffing levels or commitments to pioneering and ground-breaking treatments were to blame for failings in basic patient care and revealed he would be more than happy to have his family treated at the city’s flagship hospital.
It comes after the Daily Echo this week revealed how four patients have died at the hospital amid concerns over the care they received.
In the most recent case that has come to light, Southampton coroner Keith Wiseman ruled that there was a “serious misjudgement” in identifying a condition that led to the death of 61-year-old Lesley Woodward in January last year.
The coroner’s comments follow three other inquests within the past three weeks in which he criticised standards and equipment at the hospital.
His damning verdict into the death of David Adams concluded that the 53-year-old dad-of-three “should not have died” in November 2011, criticising the delay in getting blood test results and “shambolic” patient notes.
When considering the death of 67-year-old cancer patient Nigel James he ruled the hospital had fallen “well below” the standard of care he deserved, and in the case of Hazel Ladbrooke, 57, he concluded that “important issues” had been raised about defective hospital equipment.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Echo, Mr Hackett, chief executive of University Hospital Southampton, which runs the General, insisted that despite the recent inquests there were no major concerns over patient safety at the hospital, which he says gets it right the majority of the time, but accepted that sometimes they have got it wrong.
He said: “I absolutely apologise where their family members have experienced care which has not been at the standard that we would have expected and they have my deepest sympathies for that.
“On an individual basis we have actually acknowledged that the care that we offered fell short of what we would have expected.
“I would be very happy to meet any of the families if they are still dissatisfied with what we have done or if they want to discuss any further issues.
“For us, learning from the public and listening to the public is one of the key things this trust constantly tries to do.
“In areas like blood results, we have learnt from that and we are looking to put in place things and have already done so to address those matters.
“I can reassure the public, based on a set of independent indicators that we get from various bodies that look at us externally, that we are becoming safer every year.
“So if you look at our trends in terms of our indicators for mortality rates for our clinical outcomes and patient safety indicators, for falls, pressures and infection rates, we are seen as one of the leading hospitals in the country in terms of what we do.
“This is an extremely safe hospital compared to others in the country and perhaps one of the leading ones.
“We treat many people every year and there will be some incidents where on occasion for individual patients we fall short of the standards we set ourselves.
“But the challenge for us really as a hospital is that the staff that we employ, who care for patients, are doing the right things, in every circumstance, all of the time.
“What I would say, not wanting to be defensive, but just to be very open, is our patient rating is that 94 per cent of patients say the care we offered for them in hospital is good, very good or excellent and this is a very high proportion of people saying that they are satisfied with their care.
“But I would be the first to acknowledge we don't get it right all the time and what we have got to look at doing is listening to people and changing and that's the challenge that we have constantly got.”
In January the hospital came under fire from the Care Quality Commission over staffing levels but Mr Hackett denied that staffing or cost-cutting measures were to blame for the failings.
He said: “Over the last five years we have employed around 2,000 more people and the vast majority of those are clinical staff and we are continuing to do that and expand our workforce year in, year out. So I don't think there is a link between that or our cost efficiencies that the Government ask us to undertake every year.
“With these cases I don't think there is one sole reason because if that was the case we would have cracked it.
“What we are seeing in terms of demands on the hospital are patients coming into the hospital who are increasingly more dependant and have a whole range of complex medical or surgical conditions.”
Mr Hackett categorically denied that aspirations for pioneering treatments and medical breakthroughs were coming at the expense of basic patient care, saying that the hospital is “passionate” about improving local care for local people.
He vowed that the issues raised by the inquests were top of his agenda and he would be ensuring lessons would be learnt.
“What is incredibly important for us and certainly to me as a member of the public, as well as a professional who works in the health service is that our central purpose is to be there to care for patients”, he said.
“This is a trust that is completely focused on trying to improve the quality of service to patients and we lead the country in much of that work.
“Mistakes and failings do occur, as they would do in any large organisation, but we have a special duty because we look after patients who come to us at their most vulnerable, exposed and fearful times in their lives and our whole focus has to be on working, day in and day out, to minimise and eradicate any failings in our systems and processes.
“I can absolutely ensure you that myself and all of the doctors and nurses in the hospital have that focus at heart and we are constantly looking to do that.”