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Trust response to Sunday Telegraph article dated 3 July

6 July 2011

Sir,

We are writing in response to Andrew Gilligan’s inaccurate and one-sided article in the Sunday Telegraph of 3rd July.

What is most distressing is that his misleading article may have caused much needless anxiety and concern for patients and families at the hospital. In the recent Trust annual survey conducted by Ipsos MORI, 96% of patients and parents were satisfied with the care provided and 98% had confidence and trust in the doctors.

Great Ormond Street Hospital places patient safety at the top of its agenda. It actively encourages staff to highlight any risks they see and these are then put on a risk register. Patient safety is the first point on the agenda at management board meetings. There are risk registers and indeed risks in all organisations including hospitals – it allows you to highlight potential problems so that you can work to resolve them. For staff to leak a risk register and for a reporter to then put some of this information (albeit not the actions that have been taken to address them) in a press article is deeply sad because it means other staff may feel less inclined to highlight potential risks – which is the opposite of what we want.

Your particular article highlights risks in the radiology department and specifically about musculo-skeletal radiology. It is true that the Trust has been seeking second reviews on specific scans while we recruited a new consultant and continued to develop expertise in this super-specialist area. This is a good thing and exactly what putting something on the risk register allows us to do.

What the article failed to point out was that, in benchmarking exercises within the last year, the radiology department has been one of the top rated departments in London for teaching trainees, became the first and only accredited children’s radiology department in the UK and in our most recent patient survey was rated as either good or very good by 97% of patients surveyed.

The press office, at the request of Dr Owens, told Andrew Gilligan that she did not want to be included in this article and for you to have ignored her wishes has caused her great distress.Professor Hall, who is also referenced retired in 2006, although with an honorary contract.

In response to more of the ‘risks’ that the article mentions:

The article implies an issue with regard to the Trust paying its bills. The Trust can and does pay its bills – this risk was around administrative issues and at no point was patient care compromised as a result.

The article talks about vital signs monitors. There have always been vital signs monitors. However, we wished to upgrade them and we have now been able to do so.

The article talks about IVAC pumps. Again, we have IVAC pumps and provision is being increased in parallel with increased clinical demand.

It is true that we are having increased referrals to the hospital and that’s why we have a plan to increase capacity through our major redevelopment programme. However, the article is incorrect to suggest that children are not being treated in designated clinical spaces. All children are treated in clinical areas, although on occasion, and to enable them to be seen quickly, they may not be on the main ward for that specialty.

The article suggests that some doctors are concerned at the emergency night cover. The hospital at night is an issue throughout the NHS. We believe that at Great Ormond Street we are significantly ahead of others in addressing this issue which is linked to the hours for junior doctors. There are of course always things you can do better and we continue to work with colleagues to find additional solutions. 

However, we should point out the following - there is a consultant available and on call for every sub-specialty inpatient within the hospital all night, every night. We have introduced an intensive care outreach service which means that there is an additional emergency doctor available at night. We have introduced a team of general paediatricians to oversee the handover of patients from day time to night time care and back to day care the following morning.

It is true that the Trust was downgraded to ‘fair’ for clinical care in the CQC assessment of 2009. This was because of the length of waiting times for spinal surgery. There was a national shortage of capacity for spinal surgery at the time and all centres in the UK had issues. Without this we would have been rated as ‘excellent’ so the article was highly misleading. We’re confident we would have been rated ‘excellent’ in 2010 had this system been continued.

There is a minority of consultants who do not support some of the decisions we’re making to improve patient care and we regret that they have chosen to go anonymously to the media rather than use the usual channels available in the Trust. However, there is no evidence that anyone has been targeted for raising concerns. The letter referred to by Andrew Gilligan has been signed by the co-chairs and unit representatives of the consultant body (hence the seven signatures) on behalf of their colleagues. They point out that the large majority of clinical areas at GOSH are happy and feel supported by hospital management.

All we want to do is concentrate on providing high quality care to the patients and families who rely on us, rather than spend time having to correct ill-informed articles which do not provide any context or balance.

Yours truly,

Dr Barbara Buckley

Professor Martin Elliott

Medical Directors, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Trust

Contact information:

GOSH-ICH Press Office: 020 7239 3125
Email: Coxs@gosh.nhs.uk
For genuine and urgent out of hours call speak to switchboard on 020 7405 9200

Notes to editors

Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Trust is the country’s leading centre for treating sick children, with the widest range of specialists under one roof.

With the UCL Institute of Child Health, we are the largest centre for paediatric research outside the US and play a key role in training children’s health specialists for the future.

Our charity needs to raise £50 million every year to help rebuild and refurbish Great Ormond Street Hospital, buy vital equipment and fund pioneering research. With your help we provide world class care to our very ill children and their families.