NHS referrals and children’s surgery are suspended at BMI Healthcare’s Mount Alvernia Hospital

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: (Published 03 May 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f2926
  1. Adrian O’Dowd
  1. 1London

Referrals of all NHS patients and all surgery on children have been suspended at a private hospital in Surrey after an inspection by the main NHS regulator found the hospital to be failing several quality standards.

The BMI Healthcare’s Mount Alvernia Hospital in Guildford, Surrey—an independent acute care hospital—has now replaced its management team after a highly critical inspection by the Care Quality Commission. Care is now back to a good standard, it said.

Inspections carried out in December last year and January this year found medical, surgical, and nursing practices at the hospital were so poor that people were put at “significant risk” that was sometimes “life threatening,” despite staff members themselves raising concerns with managers.

The commission found that the hospital was failing to meet eight of nine essential standards on quality and safety and demanded that action be taken in areas that included care and welfare of people using services; cleanliness and infection control; staffing; and safety and suitability of premises.

As a result the local clinical commissioning group has suspended all NHS referrals to the hospital until it is satisfied that the problems there have been dealt with and improvements made.

A Care Quality Commission report published on 2 May said that most of the people the inspectors spoke to were happy with the care and treatment they were receiving.1 However, staff interviewed at the hospital had very different views, and the report said, “The documents and reports we saw highlighted very serious failings. Medical, surgical and some nursing practices at BMI Mount Alvernia hospital were so poor that people were put at significant risk. This risk was, on some occasions, life threatening.”

Incidents mentioned in the report included surgery being carried out on the wrong side of the body; in unsafe settings outside operating theatres; and without proper ventilation, thus increasing patients’ risk of infection.

One of the most serious concerns was the care of children admitted for surgery, including children being cared for by untrained staff and a failure to get written consent from parents for surgery.

“Staff were untrained and had very limited experience of caring for sick and postoperative children. The hospital management team were dismissive of staff concerns and blocked action to improve the situation,” said the report.

Stephen Collier, chief executive officer of BMI Healthcare, said that the hospital’s failings were “entirely unacceptable.”

“The hospital’s practices let BMI and our patients down, and I apologise for that,” he said. “In 2012 we were not maintaining the high standards that we and our regulators demand at Mount Alvernia.

The company had been in touch with all patients who may have been affected. A spokesman said, “The hospital is currently being managed by a different senior management team than that which was in place last year. Where appropriate, our disciplinary process is being applied, but we are not prepared to comment further on this in relation to individual staff members.”

The NHS Guildford and Waverley Clinical Commissioning Group said that it had temporarily suspended any commissioning of services for NHS patients from the hospital.

Its chairman, David Eyre-Brook, said, “We take any concerns about patient care extremely seriously and have taken immediate action to ensure the safety of patients while issues identified by the CQC [Care Quality Commission] are resolved.”

The company has given the commission an action plan outlining the steps that it will take to remedy problems, and the commission will make further unannounced inspections.


Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f2926