A new probe into major lapses of care at Liverpool Community Health Trust between 2010 and 2014 has been launched amid fresh concerns about the quality of serious incident reporting and investigation.
Three previous reviews, including one by the Care Quality Commission in 2014, highlighted serious problems at the trust, which stopped providing services in 2018 and has since been succeeded by Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust.
The investigation, commissioned by health minister Stephen Hammond, will draw on new evidence identified by Mersey Care in the wake of the Kirkup report, which looked at widespread failings at the trust and published its findings last year.
The report found that overly ambitious cost cutting in a bid to achieve foundation trust status had jeopardised patient safety, leading to serious lapses in care and causing widespread patient harm. A bullying culture meant that staff were afraid to speak up and safety incidents were ignored or went unrecognised.
This latest investigation will again be chaired by Dr Bill Kirkup, supported by an independent panel of experts.
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 historical mortality reviews.
Stage 3 will fully investigate incidents identified in stages 1 and 2 to quantify the scale of patient harm, and identify lessons to be learned at local and national levels.
The panel will advise where they believe senior leadership within the trust may have contributed to the delivery of unsafe patient care, picking up on any themes, trends or issues that merit further scrutiny.
Work on stages 1 and 2 will start immediately. The investigation is due to report by the end of next year.
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.”
He added: “We are prepared to take any action that is necessary – locally or nationally – to prevent such occurrences in the future.”
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.”
A spokesman for Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust explained: “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…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.”
He added that community health services were now safe and subject to robust quality assurance checks and governance.