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Safety concern over Spire hospitals

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Private hospital chain Spire Healthcare, which often treats NHS-funded patients, is under scrutiny following the recent deaths of some patients under its watch, reports BBC.

In one such case, Nafisa Khan was referred to Spire East London by NHS for a gallbladder operation in September 2021. The morning after her surgery, Nafisa’s condition deteriorated.

The hospital lacked a critical care unit and it was decided to transfer her to NHS intensive care.

However, there was a long delay in the arrival of the ambulance and Nafisa died shortly after being taken into NHS hospital.

Spire Healthcare later admitted it failed to assess the seriousness of Nafisa’s condition and apologised.

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The BBC later found that some patients treated in Spire hospitals were unaware there were no intensive care facilities.

Following BBC’s expose, Spire has now updated its hospital websites, informing patients they may need to be transferred to the NHS for intensive care.

Spire Healthcare runs 39 private hospitals across the UK, but only some have critical care units.

In the past two years, the hospital chain received three Prevention of Future Deaths reports from coroners calling for action.

These are issued when someone has died and action needs to be taken to reduce the risk of future deaths.

At another Spire Hospital, in Leeds, a woman had developed sepsis after a routine hernia operation.

The hospital was late in identifying it and she died. The coroner concluded her death was avoidable.

In Spire hosptial Norwich, the coroner issued a warning about its continuing reliance on ambulance transfers to NHS hospitals in the event of emergencies, after the death of three patients following long waits.

With the NHS saddled with huge backlogs, it pays for patients to be treated in private hospitals.

Since 2021, Spire Healthcare has treated over half a million NHS patients. Last year its profits rose by more than 30 per cent to £126 million.

Dr Nick Woodier at the Health Services Safety Investigations Body told BBC that patients’ safety is at risk if the NHS does not understand the capabilities of a particular private hospital.

 

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