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Children’s Hospital boss hits back at critical report

11th November 2008

The embattled boss of Birmingham Children’s Hospital yesterday insisted: “We are not a third world hospital”.

Chief executive Paul O’Connor was speaking as he fights to save the hospital’s reputation after a damning report highlighted a catalogue of failings.

Transplant consultants at Edgbaston’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital claimed there were a series of failings at the Children’s Hospital culminating from an alleged “lack of clinical leadership”.

Issues included too few beds, operations interrupted because theatre staff could not recognise surgical instruments, lack of confidence in management and severely ill patients having to wait weeks to be admitted because of unnecessary delays.

The specialists, who operate at the Children’s Hospital, claimed their warnings fell on deaf ears and described treatment as “third class” and worse than in a developing African country.

It led to consultants refusing to travel to the Children’s Hospital until the patient had been called into theatre because of delays.

The move prompted an NHS investigation by Birmingham’s Primary Care Trusts (PCT) into the liver and kidney transplant, brain surgery, face deformity, vascular and interventional radiology departments.

PCT officers ruled immediate action needed to be taken to address long waiting lists made worse by a severe shortage of beds, incidents not being reported and emergency patients being sent to hospitals as far away as Leeds due to no theatre radiologist on site.

Mr O’Connor said problems were being addressed and insisted likening hospital services to the third world was unfair and “blatantly not true”.

“I endorse and accept the formal report by the PCTs into problems and we are addressing those operational issues through an action plan, but I don’t accept a separate leaked report by consultants,” said Mr O’Connor. “That statement about a developing country by an anonymous clinician is the thing that most upsets doctors here. Staff here are very upset and it is blatantly not true.

“It does not reflect the very high standard of clinical care we give at this, a pioneering specialist children’s hospital. We have 150 consultants and the vast majority are affronted by this comment.”

Mr O’Connor added projects were under way to build an improved renal ward, a teenage cancer suite and to expand the liver unit.

The investigation found management problems running through each department of a lack of planning for beds, problems with medical staffing and not being compliant with new junior doctor working hours, a need for more service planning, out of date procedures and policies and poor equipment provision.

Consultants had criticised the renal transplant department saying there were times when patients were brought to theatre before the donor organ was examined, leading to the patient being sent back to the ward.

On liver transplant procedures, the doctors claimed: “Paediatrics is getting a third class service.”

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