As the independent regulator of health and adult social care in England the Care Quality Commission (CQC) make sure health and social care services provide people with safe, effective, compassionate, high-quality care and encourage care services to improve.
The CQC is regularly meeting with Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, including holding regular monthly detailed updates and a quarterly engagement meeting. The CQC are also in regular contact with Southampton City Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) at the Wessex Quality Surveillance Group, who have been looking into the trust performance and raised the matter of issues with ophthalmology at the trust.
Speaking up and raising concerns should be routine in the National Health Service and is a key part of ensuring patient safety and improving the quality of services. The Government is clear no one should suffer detriment from speaking up in the NHS. The CQC are assured that the Trust has: demonstrated their awareness and application of protected disclosure in relation to the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 and updated their whistleblowing policy. The CQC will follow up the Trust’s management of whistleblowers at the planned ‘well-led’ inspection of the Trust in January 2019. The CQC met with a whistleblower who raised concerns about patient safety in the Southampton eye unit in early 2017. The CQC closed the whistleblowing inquiry following investigation by the Trust.
The Trust and key stakeholders have informed the CQC of concerns regarding patient waiting times for ophthalmology, including incidences where harm has happened to patients as a result. The CQC are unable to currently make an assessment regarding the levels of sight loss, however the Trust have told the CQC that they have reviewed how harm is assessed. The CQC is monitoring the concerns regarding the ophthalmology department.
During an ophthalmology consultants meeting in August 2016, the CQC highlighted that individuals at the Trust should not conduct private work on NHS lists or when on call, and that private lists should be clearly distinguished from NHS operations.
The CQC are aware of two ‘never events’ within ophthalmology in 2017 and July 2018. It was, however, concluded patients did not sustain harm to the incorrect eye. A serious incident also occurred on 7 December 2018, which the CQC understands the Trust plans to investigate. The CQC have requested a copy of the full investigation following the ‘serious incident’ on 7 December 2018, and depending on the outcome, they may take regulatory action.