Independent investigation announced into failings at Liverpool Community Health

A new independent investigation into the serious incidents at Liverpool Community Health NHS Trust between 2010 and 2014 has been commissioned by Health Minister Stephen Hammond.

The new investigation will draw upon fresh evidence identified by Mersey Care following the Kirkup report in 2018. The investigation will engage with families of former patients and affected staff to understand their concerns and develop recommendations.

Health Minister Stephen Hammond has asked NHS England and NHS Improvement to establish the investigation, which will be Chaired by Dr Bill Kirkup and supported by an independent expert oversight panel.

It will be conducted over three key stages:

  • Stages 1 and 2 will identify individual serious patient safety incidents that were not reported or adequately investigated by Liverpool Community Health and also undertake a series of historic mortality reviews.
  • Stage 3 will fully investigate incidents identified in stages 1 & 2 to determine the scale of patient harm, identifying local and national learnings.

The panel will advise where they believe senior leadership within the Trust may have contributed to the delivery of unsafe patient care, identifying any themes, trends or issues that may require further investigation.

Health Minister, Stephen Hammond said: “We owe it to the patients and families affected by substandard care in Liverpool Community Health to establish the full extent of events and give them the answers they need.

“The new investigation we have commissioned will review fresh evidence to make sure no stone is left unturned.

“Dr Bill Kirkup and his expert panel will draw upon his knowledge and experience in this area to oversee a thorough and independent investigation and we await his recommendations.

“We are prepared to take any action that is necessary – locally or nationally – to prevent such occurrences in the future.”

A previous review into Liverpool Community Health was conducted by Dr Kirkup to look at widespread failings at the trust, with the report published in February 2018.

It described how over-ambitious cost improvement programmes as part of a bid for foundation trust status placed patient safety at risk, leading to serious lapses in care and widespread harm to patients. It concluded that a culture of bullying meant that staff were afraid to speak up and safety incidents were ignored or went unrecognised.

Bill McCarthy, Regional Director NHS England and NHS Improvement (North West), said: “I strongly support this important piece of work to give patients and families the answers they need. We have been working closely with the trust and other organisations and will continue to support them until the investigation concludes.”

The new investigation will publish its terms of reference once agreed by the Chair.

NHS England and NHS Improvement expect work on Stages 1 and 2 will commence immediately and the independent investigation will report by the end of 2020.

Statement from Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust:

“Mersey Care welcomes today’s announcement of a new independent investigation into the historic failings at the former Liverpool Community Health (LCH) between 2010 and 2014.

“After becoming the new provider for Liverpool Community Health services in April 2018, Mersey Care conducted a review into a number of historical issues relating to case management incident reporting and record keeping in accordance with the recommendations of the independent review into LCH led by Dr Bill Kirkup last year.

“This initial review uncovered 43,000 incidents, of which 17,000 are patient safety related, which we believe requires further scrutiny because of poor and inconsistent record keeping, data management and gaps in processes relating to HR investigations. We will co-operate fully with Dr Kirkup and his independent expert oversight panel for the new investigation.

“Liverpool community services are now a completely different organisation and were rated as ‘good’ for caring and responsive in the most recent inspection from the Care Quality Commission earlier this year. We can assure staff and patients that those services are now safe and we have established robust quality assurance checks and governance in place.”

A dedicated telephone helpline has also been established for any patients that have concerns. You can call 0151 527 3400.

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