As reported by the BBC, Midford Ward at the Royal United Hospital (RUH) in Bath, South West England was closed suddenly and unexpectedly in May for ‘safety reasons’.

On 17 May 2023, the BBC report stated that it had been decided on 11 May to shut the 27-bed Midford Ward, which is used for elderly patients who need a short stay in hospital, and that it was expected to be shut until 29 May.

The RUH was reported stating: “The safety of our patients and our staff is paramount and as such we made the decision to close Midford ward temporarily… Since its closure we have been undertaking some improvement work and our Estates and Facilities team is working hard to improve the ward environment.”

According to the BBC, the Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust said it was working through ‘internal processes’ before releasing further details. However, no further information is available at the current time and it is unclear whether Midford Ward has re-opened or not.

There have been problems on Midford Ward in the past. In 2018, it was reported in the Bath Echo that a nurse who worked on the ward during 2015 and 2016 was struck off for a ‘catalogue of incidents’ and for causing ‘actual harm to patients.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) carried out an unannounced, focused inspection on 22 August 2022 because it had received information giving cause for concern regarding the safety and quality of the medical services at RUH and inspected Midford Ward as part of its inspection process. The CQC report published in November 2022 highlighted a number of concerns:

  • “Staff did not always keep up to date with their safeguarding training. Staff did not always review patient risk assessments in line with policy. Staff could not always respond in a timely way to patient call bells due to staffing challenges.
  • Equipment was not always serviced or stored in line with guidelines. Some wards did not consistently complete daily checks of emergency equipment.
  • Staff did not always ensure patient consent was gained. Completion and recording of Mental Capacity Act assessments and Best Interest decisions was not always done. Identification and review of patients who may be being deprived of their liberty was not done consistently.”

The inspectors observed that staff on Midford Ward failed to respond to a patient’s call bell for over five minutes and only responded once the inspector pointed out that the patient had called for assistance. The inspectors raised concerns regarding other wards, including Waterhouse Ward, also for elderly patients.

Shockingly, inspectors found that ‘staff did not always support patients to make informed decisions about their care and treatment…[and] They did not always use measures that limit patients’ liberty appropriately’. The CQC also reported ‘Patient records we reviewed did not always contain Mental Capacity Assessments or Best Interest decisions where these were indicated’.

It is understood that inspectors immediately raised concerns with the Royal United Hospitals Bath NHS Foundation Trust leadership and that timely steps were taken to address the inspectors’ concerns and make the necessary improvements.

Whilst many aspects and services at RUH were found to be of an acceptable level, the CQC did stipulate that the following improvements were required:

  • “The service should ensure that they progress with the action plan produced in response to concerns identified with Mental Capacity Act, 2005 and Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards.
  • The service should ensure they continue to address low staff training compliance for safeguarding adults levels 3.
  • The service should ensure patient risk assessments for falls and pressure ulcer prevention are reviewed regularly on all wards.
  • The service should ensure equipment is maintained and stored as required by manufacturer guidelines and COSHH (Control of Substances Hazardous to Health) regulations.
  • The service should ensure all wards consistently complete daily checks of emergency equipment.”

You can read the full CQC November 2022 report here: CQC – Royal United Hospital Bath inspection report.

Following on from the CQC’s inspection last year, the more recent closure of Midford Ward, citing safety concerns, is potentially an indication of serious problems on that ward.

NHS England says ‘Patient safety is of the highest importance…’and its new Patient Safety Incident Response Framework is being rolled out nationally and is expected to be in action and fully adopted by NHS organisations by autumn 2023.

No doubt, further information regarding the developments on Midford Ward will become available in due course, once the Trust has completed its ‘internal processes’. The Trust will need to ensure, however, that it complies with NHS England’s patient safety framework. The Trust also has a legal duty of candour to be ‘open and honest with patients and families when something goes wrong with their treatment or causes… harm or distress. This includes saying sorry and taking action to put things right where possible.’

At RHL Solicitors, we understand that no one would wish to begin the long and emotional journey of claiming damages against the medical profession without good cause. However, it’s crucial to ensure you get the expert legal advice and support you need.

RHL Solicitors’s specialist medical negligence solicitors act for the victims of medical negligence, conducting thorough and rigorous clinical negligence investigations with the intention of establishing liability and recovering compensation.

When someone dies as the result of medical negligence, we are also able to act on behalf of the deceased’s estate and dependents to bring a claim. The expert reports we disclose to the Defendant during the claim process can also help to make a difference and to improve future care.

If you believe that you or your loved one may have received substandard care as a patient in hospital, causing an injury, contact us on 0344 7768328 to explore a possible claim for compensation on a No Win No Fee Agreement.