Hospital care standards review urged by Royal College of Surgeons
- 26 November 2013
- From the section Wales
A review of all Welsh hospitals to address "public anxiety" about standards of NHS care has been urged by the Royal College of Surgeons (RCS).
The respected professional body said it was worried about poor performance and called for "urgent assurance" on safety.
It said the hospital inspection system should be beefed up with more input from professional medical bodies.
But the Welsh government said a review was not needed.
The RCS - which represents surgeons across the UK and promotes surgical standards - stopped short of calling for a whole-scale review of the Welsh NHS,
But in a briefing prepared for assembly members the college argued more should be done by politicians, NHS managers and clinicians to improve public confidence.
It is worried about the high number of patients who die waiting for heart operations in south Wales and about the big rise in general in people waiting too long for hospital treatment.
Conservative Shadow Minister for Health Darren Millar welcomed the RCS call.
The Conservatives have previously demanded an inquiry into Welsh NHS care standards, similar to an investigation by Sir Bruce Keogh into health trusts with the highest death rates in England.
The Welsh government has ruled that out.
Mr Millar said: "It's not right that the people of Wales have hospitals with higher death rates than elsewhere in the UK.
"We need to understand the reasons for that and I am pleased the RCS has made this call."
The RCS wants the current inspection regime led by Healthcare Inspectorate Wales (HIW) to be beefed up, and suggested setting up a dedicated "hospital inspectorate" within the watchdog.
It said in its briefing to AMs: "We understand HIW will soon be consulting on its future inspection model and the Welsh government have already indicated that they will review all audit, inspection and review bodies in Wales.
"While HIW already carries out some proactive reviews, we believe more regular reviews need to occur.
"Routine inspection is mostly related to specific areas of concern and issues such as cleanliness.
"Changes to HIW need to happen quickly as the public need urgent assurance about the standards of care at Welsh hospitals".
Cynon Valley MP Ann Clwyd, who recently led a review of NHS complaints in England, said the RCS report must be recognised.
"I think it will shine a light on what are very serious concerns - long waiting lists, long waits for diagnosis in the first place compared to England, and a number of patients - particularly in cardiac surgery - dying on waiting lists," she said.
"So don't listen to politicians, listen to these professionals who are saying there's great cause for concern," she said.
Ms Clwyd has previously called for a wide-ranging inquiry into standards of care across Wales.
The Welsh government said systems were in place to intervene when things went wrong but insisted the vast majority of patients were satisfied with the care they received.
"These issues were debated fully in the assembly on 6 November when calls for an inquiry into Welsh hospitals were defeated," it said in a statement.
"As we stated then, a review of all hospitals in Wales is, in our view, not necessary.
"Let us not forget that patients in Wales come into contact with the NHS some 20 million times a year and 92% say they are satisfied with the care they receive in hospital."
The Welsh government said HIW was an important part of the systems in place "which start with the responsibility of health boards to deliver safe compassionate care and includes community health councils, the public services ombudsman and others".
In July BBC Wales revealed that during an RCS visit to the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, surgeons had branded some services there "dangerous".
They were particularly worried about the number of patients dying while on waiting lists for heart surgery at the hospital.
Cardiff and the Vale Health Board suggested that 12 people had died while on cardiac waiting lists in 15 months.
Abertawe Bro Morgannwg Health Board later confirmed that 57 people had died during a five-year period while waiting for heart surgery at Swansea's Morriston hospital.
Both the Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru stressed the need for the necessary procedures to be in place to ensure a safe NHS.