Hospital warned over hazardous cleaning products after death

Royal Sussex County Hospital (Photograph: Eddie Mitchell)
Royal Sussex County Hospital (Photograph: Eddie Mitchell)

Brighton’s hospital has been told it must do more to protect patients from hazardous cleaning substances after a patient died in a medical ward last year.

Health watchdog the CQC made an unannounced inspection to the Royal Sussex County Hospital after an 85-year-old woman died in September.

She died after reportedly drinking a glass of cleaning fluid instead of orange juice

An inquest into her death has been opened and adjourned by the Brighton Coroner.

In the report published today (May 17), the CQC said the NHS trust had removed green water jugs which had been in place to support people with dementia and replaced them with clear jugs that meant it was possible to see the liquid inside.

But its inspectors found that hazardous products were not always stored securely in unlocked utility rooms and kitchens.

It added that on three wards inspectors visited, access codes were written on door or door frames close to digital locks.

But the CQC did say that housekeeping assistants had a good knowledge of the regulations relating to Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (CoSHH) cleaning products and had recently received refresher training.

Amanda Stanford, CQC deputy chief inspector of hospital inspection for the South, said: “The regulations governing the safe use of these cleaning products are there to protect people from harm. During our inspection we found that these chemicals were not always being kept safely.

“We have told the trust they must ensure all products that are subject to the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (CoSHH) regulations are stored securely. They must also introduce a system which gives assurance that information relating to all substances subject to CoSHH is available in every work area. This information must be complete and accurate, and staff must be able to understand it. Nursing staff too must be aware of the regulations and their responsibilities with regard to safe storage and use of these products.”

The warning from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) comes after the Royal Sussex County Hospital was rated ‘inadequate’ in 2016.

Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust (BSUH) - which runs the Royal Sussex, as well as the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath - was also rated inadequate.

Dr Rob Haigh, medical director at BSUH, said: “This inspection followed the death of a patient in September 2017 at the Royal Sussex County Hospital following an incident on a medical ward. Our thoughts are with the patient’s family.

“The incident was reported straight away and we took immediate, Trust-wide action to prevent the same thing happening again.

“In the seven months since the CQC’s inspection, we have taken significant steps to improve the way we manage potentially hazardous substances both in terms of staff training and the way these substances are stored and used, addressing the points published in today’s report.”

After the report on hazardous substances today, the CQC has told the trust that it must provide a report setting out how it will meet the regulations. Inspectors will return in due course to check that the improvements have been made.