A watchdog has demanded immediate improvement at a hospital where a ten-year-old child died amid allegations she was given the wrong medication.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) moved into disaster-hit Basildon University Hospital on November 3 following the tragic death.
They also investigated reports a second child had become seriously unwell after being given out-of-date medication.
Now the watchdog has warned the hospital to sort out its “unacceptable” paediatric services to avoid heavy fines – or being shut down.
Worryingly, the hospital was slapped with the same warnings just four month ago in its adult services.
The latest CQC inspection found out-of-date medication that should have been discarded during its previous visit.
Inspectors also discovered ill children who should be seen a doctor within 15 minutes were regularly waiting up to an HOUR.
Andrea Gordon, CQC deputy director of operations, said change at the blighted hospital was “imperative.”
She said: “What our inspectors found at the trust on 3 November was completely unacceptable.
“We have taken this action to assist in driving through improvements which have a positive impact on the people being cared for at the hospital.
“It is imperative that the trust now ensures it makes changes which are sustainable, embedded and maintained for the future.”
She added: “It is highly disappointing that the trust is again in breach of the same two regulations albeit in relation to different parts of the service it offers.
“That is why we have asked the trust to look deeper at its own processes, policies and procedures by commissioning an investigation.
“We have been working closely with our partner agencies with regard to the trust and our concerns about it.
“The trust has already given us assurances of what action it intends to take and we will be closely monitoring its progress on the improvements it needs to make.
“Our inspectors will return in the near future and if we find the required progress is not made we won’t hesitate to use our legal powers to protect the people who use this service.”
The tragic little girl believed to have been given out of date medication was transferred to St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, London, where she died.
A Basildon University Hospital spokesman said the second child continued treatment at Basildon Hospital and suffered “no long term damage.”
Sources at the hospital claimed incorrect or out of date medication was dispensed by staff and may have lead to the death and illness.
The Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust had recently carried out an audit of expired medication.
But CQC inspectors found medicines that should have been discarded during their visit.
Hospital staff also admitted there were often considerable delays in children receiving appropriate medical attention when concerns over their condition deteriorating.
Inspectors saw reports showing a significant drop in permanent paediatric consultants.
Shockingly, investigators found waiting times shot up after 5pm and at weekends when there were not enough doctors to meet demand.
Despite the shortcomings the CQC found no evidence of any effective action being taken.
The trust has been found to be failing to plan and deliver care to meet the needs of children in a way that ensured their welfare and safety.
The CQC warnings are in relation to the essential standards, the care and welfare of service users and assessing and monitoring the quality of service provision
It must now make improvements in the two identified areas by January 13 and commission an independent investigation into its paediatric services.
If the trust fails the CQC can issue financial penalty notices and cautions or prosecute the provider for failing to meet essential standards.
In the most serious the CQC has the power to suspend or cancel a service provided by the trust.
The crisis at the hospital, run by Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, comes after a catalogue of failings unearthed by inspections in recent years.
In 2001 conditions at Basildon University Hospital were described as “Third World” by the Royal College of Nursing because of a shortage of beds.
Then, in 2004, Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust was fined for failing to control the risk of legionnaire’s disease.
In 2007 the Trust was forced to admit being at fault for the case of a child who was left disabled after she was starved of oxygen when she was born at Basildon Hospital in 2001.
Then in 2008 more than 200 new mothers were offered HIV tests after the Trust discovered that a member of staff who had delivered their babies was HIV positive
The hospital was in the news again in April 2009 after a three-year-old girl died in the paediatric ward after intravenous drip bags were found to have been sabotaged.
A report by the CQC’s predecessor, called Monitor, in 2009 found dozens of patients died needlessly as a result of filthy conditions and appalling nursing care.
Shocking figures showed the mortality rate at the hospital was more than a third higher than the national average and at least 70 people may have died who should have been saved.
It used its legal powers to demand that Basildon and Thurrock tackle “inadequate arrangements to treat children in A&E, with few specialist paediatric staff.”
The CQC carried out a series of unannounced inspections at the hospital in June and July this year after reports of children waiting for treatment in the A&E department.
They issued the hospital trust with a formal warning after the death of an infant who was not assessed within the A&E 15 minutes target time.
The child, who was suffering from blood poisoning, was not medically assessed for 55 minutes.
The infant was rushed to Great Ormond Street Hospital for specialist care, but doctors decided no further treatment was possible.
A spokeswoman for Basildon University Hospital yesterday (Mon) said it has taken immediate steps to change the way it delivers some of its children’s services.
Clare Panniker, Chief Executive of Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “I want to assure the local community that we are absolutely committed to improving the standards of care which we deliver to children.
“By commissioning a review of our paediatric services we can be sure we are looking at every area to best meet their needs.”
She added: “We need to do better to ensure that every child who comes to Basildon Hospital gets good, high quality, safe care only by doing this will we address the CQC’s concerns.”
The trust said a number of immediate changes had also been made to address the most pressing areas of concern.
More senior staff, including consultants, doctors and nurses, have been placed on duty at all times, especially out of hours.
Weekly unannounced spot checks to ensure clinical practice standards, including checking expiry dates on medication, are being followed, have also been introduced.