Another Private Eye Story: Poor Care at London Bridge Private Hospital

This is another piece from Private Eye, detailing the poor care and reluctance to correct mistakes at the private London Bridge hospital, run by the giant American healthcare firm, HCA International.

‘Private Hospitals

Bloody Disgrace

Don’t expect too much joy complaining about sub-standard care at the major private hospitals run in the UK by US healthcare giant HCA International (and performing increasing amounts of NHS work). One Eye reader’s stay at the company’s London Bridge Hospital exposed her to appalling care followed by a total failure to dal with the mistakes.

Soon after the hysterectomy the patient, herself a former nurse, suffered serious bleeding which, she believes, was caused by rough handling by HCA nurses.

While an expert brought in by the industry-funded Independent Sector Complaints Adjudication Service (ISCAS) concluded that this was unlikely, he did find that, while in severe distress, her nurse left her “without a call buzzer or oxygen and no means of summoning assistance”. HCA “had been unable to identify this nurse and suggested she was from an agency”. This was “a most unsatisfactory response and means that the hospital cannot take steps to ensure that other patients do not experience similar problems”.

Worse was to come, however, as the patient’s safety and dignity were repeatedly compromised. Her “vital signs” were not recorded despite her serious condition, the expert concluding that it was “certainly unwise to have totally discontinued any monitoring at this time”. Dressing procedures were then performed while an engineer was working (and removing tiles) in the patient’s room. “The sister”, found the ISCAS, “refused requests from nurses for you to move rooms.” There was also “a lack of professionalism amongst the nursing staff in the way assumptions were made about your condition (believing you had cancer) and communicated with you, causing you further anxiety”.

The aftermath, alas, is just as alarming. The patient first complained about her nursing care the day after her discharge, giving HCA every chance to act; but the issues were not investigated at all. “This is a serious allegation that has not been addressed by the London Bridge Hospital or HCA International,” concluded the adjudicator. The patient’s subsequent formal complaint was then hampered by obfuscation on HCA’s part, the adjudicator agreeing that medical records including the consultant’s notes had been withheld, while many others mysteriously, er, went missing. Despite the many failings the ISCAS eventually identified, HCA’s grandly-titled Group Director of Clinical Performance & Governance, Rosemary Hittinger, “responded that she could not find ‘that the standard of nursing care fell beneath the reasonable standard expected of the nursing profession’.”

In short, HCA – currently under investigation by US authorities for performing unnecessary operations (see Eye 1321)-first couldn’t be trusted to care for its patient, and then wouldn’t accept that it had failed to do so, or seek to learn from the episode.

Little good did ISCAS findings do for the patient, however. The toothless body was limited to recommending a payment of “¬£1,000 from HCA International, as a gesture of goodwill.”. This is hardly likely to force the company behind 23 British hospitals and medical centres, including the Wellington and the Portland, and in receipt of UK taxpayers’ money, to mend its ways.’

So, another glimpse of the future of healthcare under the Conservatives.

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