Darent Valley Hospital praised by chief inspector of hospitals

Professor Sir Mike Richards, England’s chief inspector of hospitals, has praised Darent Valley Hospital for their services.

In his report for the Care Quality Commission (CQC), Professor Richards stated:

“We found that most of the services at Darent Valley Hospital were good. The majority of patients told my team that they were happy with the care and treatment that they had received, and we identified a number of examples of good practice.

“Overall, we found a culture where staff were positive, engaged and very loyal to the organisation, and the staff and management at the hospital were open and transparent about the challenges they faced.”

Although there were certain improvements that the report states needed to be made – mainly to the A&E department – there was plenty of positive feedback.

  • There is a discharge team which ensures patients are discharged in a safe and effective manner.
  • There are more midwives in order to cope with patients admitted to the improved maternity unit.
  • The end of life care that is provided by the hospital is safe, caring and effective.

There have been two visits by the CQC to Darwent Valley Hospital. The first, a scheduled meeting where trained professionals spent two days examining all of the hospital’s processes, and the second, an unannounced visit where staff and members of the public were also met.

University Hospital gains praise after dramatic reduction in waiting times

University Hospital in Coventry has been praised by the likes of health minister Jeremy Hunt and other clinical chiefs as almost all A & E patients are now being seen within the expected four hour waiting threshold.

Just a few months ago the hospital was criticised for the fact that one in three A & E patients had waited for longer than this four hour period and it was revealed that this target had been missed for over half a year which could have put lives at risk. After this information was revealed the Government provided hospital bosses with £4million in order to introduce measures that would ease pressure in the department and allow staff to see patients within the designated time.

This cash injection, along with the launch of a Getting Emergency Care Right campaign in September has led to massive improvements, according to Andy Hardy, the hospital chief executive. These improvements have shown in the figures too. As of the week ending 12th January 2014, the hospital was just below the target of 95% of patients being seen within four hours. However, at one point this year, 97% of its A & E admissions were being seen within the expected waiting time.

Chair of NHS Coventry and Rugby Clinical Commissioning Group, Dr Adrian Canale-Parola, expressed her congratulations for the hard work and effort that has been put into meeting this target:

“Progress has been great over the last three months especially, which is fantastic during the typically busy winter period. University Hospital has regularly been one of the top performing hospitals against this vital target this winter.”

No horse meat in British beef products over last quarter

The horse meat scandal caused mayhem in Britain last year when it was revealed that food being sold in Britain that was labelled as beef actually contained horse meat or horse DNA. Since the revelation The Food Standards Agency has released their latest quarterly report of over 6,000 products, none of which were found to be contaminated with horse meat or horse DNA.

Products cannot contain more than 1% horsemeat or horse DNA before they have to be reported and in this last quarterly report none of the 6,069 products that have been tested have been at or above this 1% threshold.

The UK beef industry took the horsemeat scandal extremely seriously as it meant that beef sales across the UK dropped significantly. Of tests carried out since February 15th 2013, the Food Standards Agency have said: “”a total of 38,473 beef results tested for horse meat/DNA have been submitted by industry… Of these, 47 were positive.”

They went on to explain:

“An extensive programme of testing by UK industry and local authorities started in February 2013, at the request of the FSA. These tests were carried out to check that beef products on sale or supplied into the UK food chain were accurately labelled and did not contain horse meat/DNA, following the discovery of horse meat being used as beef in a range of food products sold across Europe.”

Minister awards Cornish hospital prize for food

Owen Paterson, Environment Secretary, has tried to help reverse the reduction in the proportion of British food being served in hospitals by prescribing Cornish clotted cream ice cream in order to help improve patients’ health.

He went on to say that spending more of the available £2.1 billion budget for food and drink on British produce would not only help to create much healthier meals, which would be a huge benefit to patients, but it would also boost British farming.

At a dairy conference in Glasgow, he went on to address the award-winning Cornwall Food Programme and suggested that it should be used as a great example to others. The programme is responsible for providing 100,000 food portions to the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro, West Cornwall Hospital in Penzance and St Michael’s Hospital in Hayle.

Paterson went on to say that the programme has meant that:

“They have increased the amount of fresh, local food they use… They have started serving a local clotted cream ice cream which not only tempts patients to eat but actually saves money, as fewer elderly patients need powdered drink supplements to make sure they get enough calories.”

It’s no secret that the majority of people don’t like hospital food and as a lot of people refuse to eat it when they’re admitted, it means that nutrition is a huge concern – especially with regards to elderly patients. If this programme were spread throughout the NHS it would mean that patients would receive the essential nutrition that they require in the form of fresh, hearty meals rather than supplement drinks.

The Secretary of State has also praised the menu that’s available at Cornwall’s hospital and would like their “buy local” ethos to be extended to all areas of the NHS as well as to schools and prisons.

Merseyside hospital given praise for care

Whiston Hospital, under the St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, has been praised for their quality of care by hospital watchdogs and the Care Quality Commission.

Inspectors from the Care Quality Commission spoke with users of this particular NHS service along with carers, family members and staff of the hospital, as well as reviewing information provided to them by community groups and consequently determined that the hospital delivered, “care and treatment planned and delivered in a way intended to ensure people’s safety and welfare”.

The report, published by the Care Quality Commission said that patients and relatives of patients who had been cared for at the hospital were very happy with the treatment and care they had been given.

However, one issue that has been raised is the speed with which complaints are dealt with across the St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust and bosses have been told that they must speed up the rate at which they handle these in future.

In response to this a trust spokesman said:

“The Trust passed all areas of the recent CQC inspection, with only a minor action required to further improve the timeliness in responding to complaints. A significant improvement has now been made and this will continue to be monitored.”

Heston Blumenthal forced to close restaurant after vomiting bug outbreak

Heston Blumenthal has once again been forced to close one of his restaurants after a norovirus outbreak occurred. Blumenthal’s restaurant, Dinner, which has two Michelin stars and is situated in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Knightsbridge, has been closed for a week by the chef himself after several people became ill. One American couple were violently ill on their flight home to Denver after eating at the restaurant.

This isn’t the first time one of Blumenthal’s restaurants has been closed due to sickness. In 2009 his restaurant The Fat Duck, in Berkshire, had to be closed after an outbreak of food poisoning – thought to involve raw sewage infecting uncooked oysters. The restaurant was closed for a total of ten days and an official investigation was conducted after the chef and other staff were accused of not moving fast enough to prevent the virus from spreading.

On this occasion, although the closing of the restaurant may not have been necessary, Blumenthal decided to “err on the side of extreme caution” and acted swiftly to close the restaurant, after news of the first illness broke, in order to prevent the bug from spreading further.

Food safety manager, from Westminster City Council, James Armitage said:

“Test results last week have shown that there has been an outbreak of norovirus at the Dinner restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Knightsbridge. The operators have now closed the restaurant and we believe this is the responsible thing to do.

“Westminster City Council food safety officers have carried out a thorough inspection of both the restaurant premises and working practices and will continue to work with Public Health England and the restaurant operators until the restaurant is given the all-clear.

“We have already asked the restaurant to improve some of its hygiene procedures – including telling staff to wash their hands more often. All the changes were made immediately.”

The restaurant was closed on 02/02/14 for one week and should reopen, subject to being free from the virus and being given the all-clear by the council.

Do we really know our high risk foods? (Part 3)

We have previously looked at some of the foods that people consider high risk when it comes to safety and preparation. However, there are other high risk foods that haven’t quite earned the same reputation in the public mind-set even though they share that ‘high risk’ status with the likes of eggs, chicken and shellfish.

Take rice, couscous and pasta, for instance. These starchy foods have a high content of moisture. So do lots of ready meals and cooked meats. It’s not widely known that reheating all of these foods necessarily involves certain risks – the same level of risk we so readily attach to chicken, eggs and shellfish.

It’s recently been suggested that some of the more high profile food poisoning outbreaks of recent times were caused by the likes of beansprouts, celery, watercress and curry leaves – not the sorts of foods we think of as being dangerous.

The truth is that they aren’t dangerous in and of themselves. It’s all a question of preparing them properly. This takes the danger out of it completely – provided we can all be sure that standards are upheld when it comes to storage, logistics and the rest. Fortunately, food safety standards are something we can always educate people about.

Do we really know our high risk foods? (Part 2)

The last article introduced the idea that there are some foods we trust and some we take care with because of social, scientific and historical factors. It’s relatively easy to think of a couple of examples of foods we don’t trust. Take chicken, for instance, or eggs (which comes first is still a matter for debate.)

These two very popular ingredients are joined on the list of high risk foods by shellfish. Members of the public are really wary about these foods and some choose never to eat them just in case. Others only eat them at home where they can be absolutely certain that they have been prepared properly. What they’re frightened of is salmonella.

Food poisoning caused by salmonella or any other bacteria is very unpleasant and can be extremely dangerous. What people don’t necessarily realise is that all foods are potential poisoners if they are not stored, prepared and cooked in the right way.

Cases of salmonella associated with eggs have dropped significantly since the British Lion standard came into effect and stringent criteria in food safety regulations make sure underperforming restaurants, takeaways and cafes are prevented from serving customers.

Now, the high risk list has many more foods on it than eggs, shellfish and chicken and some of them might surprise us. This is the subject of Part 3 in this series of articles.

Do we really know our high risk foods? (Part 1)

Food safety is something that ought to come under the category of essential knowledge. We all need to know what foods are good for us and what foods are bad for us in order to live healthy lives. However, it’s also about knowing exactly how to prepare certain foods to stay safe and avoid illness. This kind of knowledge isn’t innate. It’s something we have to learn from the people around us.

It’s interesting that we think of some foods as being especially dodgy and others as relatively safe, even though the science may suggest that there’s not much difference between the two.

Attitudes to food safety are often determined by social context – old wives’ tales, representation in the media, hearsay, apocryphal ‘facts’ and scientific studies. The latter are made more or less trustworthy depending on how they are funded, so naturally there’s some confusion as to how we ought to treat this or that ingredient.

This topic is relevant to everyone because we’re responsible for our own health and wellbeing and that of our dependants. However, it’s possibly even more relevant for businesses that provide food because of the sheer number of people they serve. Poor food safety is enough to shut businesses down permanently.

In the following articles, we’ll look at some of the foods we trust and some of those we don’t in more detail.