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West Suffolk Hospital chief Stephen Dunn 'regret' after NHS 'never event'

A patient was given a wrong anaesthetic block prior to surgery at West Suffolk Hospital.

Chief executive Stephen Dunn admitted the error occurred in December.

It is the trust’s first reported ‘never event’, an NHS term for the kind of error that should never happen, since October 2017.

A board meeting inside West Suffolk Hospital
A board meeting inside West Suffolk Hospital

Prof Dunn, who was recently awarded a CBE, explained the incident before trust leaders and governors in a board meeting on Friday.

“It is with regret that during December we reported a never event due to a wrong site anaesthetic block prior to surgery,” he said.

“While hugely disappointing, I can confirm no harm came to the patient. But this has highlighted some mitigating actions and a full investigation has commenced.”

The ‘outstanding’-rated hospital, in Hardwick Lane, Bury St Edmunds, missed NHS targets in December for GP referrals, cancer screening and emergency department waiting times.

Prof Dunn also said staffing wards has proved ‘very challenging’ as attendances in December were 3.1 per cent higher than in 2017. A&E is currently operating at twice the capacity it was designed for, and although a £13.4million modern-isation is on the way, the chief said work will ‘take time’.

Helen Beck, chief operating officer, added: “We are considerably better than last year. There were some days in December when we were the best in the country.”

West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (WSNFT) reported a ‘month nine’ deficit of £6.5million, which is £800,000 worse than planned. It means the trust is now planning on
a net deficit of £10.1million for 2018-19.

As of December, the trust had 19 vacancies for nurses and Ms Beck said the trust had also been ‘struggling with locum manpower’.

Sheila Childerhouse, the hospital’s chairman, added that Brexit implications could be ‘considerable’ and deserved the board’s ‘utmost attention’.

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