In Depth

Addenbrooke's hospital: what it says about the state of the NHS

World-renowned hospital deemed 'inadequate' by inspectors and this could be 'just the tip of the iceberg'

One of the country's largest and most prestigious hospitals has been placed in special measures after inspectors found patients were being put at risk.

Addenbrooke's hospital, part of the Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, has been declared "inadequate" by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) due to a number of failings.

The report highlighted serious concerns at the Cambridge hospital and its adjoining birth centre, including low staffing levels, delays in outpatient treatment and governance failings, the BBC reports. High demand often means that operations are cancelled and the maternity unity is regularly closed.

The trust predicts a £64m financial deficit this year with an average weekly overspend of £1.2m, according to the NHS regulator Monitor. Its chief executive, Keith McNeil, and chief finance officer, Paul James, both resigned from their positions ahead of the CQC report.

What does this say about the state of the NHS?   

CQC's chief inspector of hospitals Sir Mike Richards argues that Addenbrooke's financial problems were largely of its own making, but the BBC's health correspondent Nick Triggle says "it's hard to escape the feeling that this is just the tip of the iceberg." Triggle argues that many of the problems witnessed at Addenbrooke's are being mirrored across the country as deficits continue to grow.

However, the Guardian's Polly Toynbee argues that the current "climate of bullying and shame in the NHS, fostered by [Jeremy] Hunt and carried through by his CQC" is leading many trusts to fail. 

The unions, meanwhile, say they are "shocked" by the rating and blame state cutbacks. "The government is expecting the trust to cope with budgets that are decreasing proportional to demand," said the trade union Unison, which represents health workers. "This has created a perfect storm and sets the trust up to fail."

Although the CQC report rated overall services as inadequate, it praised Addenbrooke's staff as hardworking, passionate and "prepared to swim upstream" against the pressures they faced.

"The problem is staff turnover," a nurse told the Cambridge News. "There are too many staff leaving because there are too many pressures." The nurse, who asked not to be named, said pay was also a strong factor. "We've not had a pay rise for years," he said.

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