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Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

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Panorama: Checks to be carried out on private clinics

The Care Quality Commission has announced it is carrying out checks on private clinics to make sure they have appropriate safety measures – after a patient bled to death following an operation at a clinic that kept no emergency blood supplies on site.

The move – revealed in the Panorama Special: Dying To Be Treated? tonight (Wednesday 30 September) at 8.00pm on BBC One – follows the death of Dr John Hubley in 2007.

Dr Hubley suffered a major haemorrhage during the course of a routine gall bladder operation at the Eccleshill Treatment Centre in Bradford.

But there was no emergency blood supply kept at the hospital and key medical equipment was not available.

At an inquest late last year it emerged that the hospital had been inspected by the Care Quality Commission's predecessor – the Healthcare Commission – only five months before Dr Hubley died and cleared as fit-for-purpose.

The coroner said the Healthcare Commission had missed major flaws in the clinic's emergency plan and described these flaws as "woefully inadequate".

During evidence the coroner described aspects of the clinic's plan to fetch blood in an emergency as "Mickey Mouse".

The private clinics that are being inspected are known as Independent Sector Treatment Centres and exclusively treat NHS patients as part of an initiative to reduce NHS waiting lists.

In a statement to Panorama the Care Quality Commission, which regulates healthcare in England, told Panorama that: "The death of Dr Hubley was an absolute tragedy.

"All those involved – including the regulator – should question what was done and ask whether they should do more to minimise the chances of recurrence.

"Our predecessor organisation, the Healthcare Commission, examined the situation closely. Having reviewed the regulatory action taken, important lessons have been identified for us to learn from.

"In order to assure ourselves that the risk to patients is minimised, we are checking with all registered independent treatment centres that they have robust and appropriate systems in place."

"No regulator can give a cast-iron guarantee that such an incident will not happen again, or that all potential issues can be identified every time. But we can promise to work tirelessly to protect the safety of patients, continuously asking how we might do better."

The Eccleshill Treatment Centre now has emergency blood and equipment on site – and a coroner found that there were no on-going issues at the clinic arising from the death of Dr Hubley.

The clinic told Panorama that Dr Hubley was the only death following 22,000 surgical procedures.

The Department of Health has told Panorama that the Independent Sector Treatment Programme has been a success – and points to extremely high patient satisfaction rates.

In particular it claims to have reduced the unnecessary suffering of hundreds of thousands of patients who might have otherwise had to wait long periods for their operations.

The Department of Health says that patients can expect the same standard of care in Independent Sector Treatment Centres as in the the NHS.

The department also says that there is a robust system of checks and balances in place to ensure patient safety.

Panorama Special: Dying To Be Treated?, BBC One, 8.00pm ,Wednesday 30 September 2009

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