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Inquiry into Liverpool Community Health failures expected

An independent inquiry into a failed NHS trust is expected to be announced later – amid concerns that 150 deaths were not properly investigated.

Liverpool Community Health (LCH), formed in 2010, ran services for about 750,000 people on Merseyside until 2018.

A review last year found it was “dysfunctional from the outset” and patients suffered “unnecessary harm”.

The trust has previously apologised to patients, families and staff.

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LCH provided services such as district nursing, dentistry and diabetes care.

It quickly embarked on a major cost-cutting programme after its formation, slashing budgets and staffing in a failed effort to become a foundation trust.

Previous reports found evidence of a bullying culture and said that patient safety was put at risk as a result of under-spending.

It is understood further analysis has raised serious new concerns, including claims that at least 150 deaths were never properly investigated.

A further 43,000 incidents cannot currently be categorised due to what has been described as “a complete failure of management systems”.

The Department of Health is expected to confirm it has ordered an independent inquiry into the extent of the failures.

Bill Kirkup, who led the 2018 investigation into the trust as well as a review into the Morecambe Bay scandal at Furness General Hospital, is expected to chair the new inquiry.

Previous investigations into the the trust have found:

  • Senior leaders were “out of their depth”
  • Despite managers’ inexperience, the trust set “unfeasible financial targets that damaged patient services”
  • An excessive focus on becoming a foundation trust – allowing greater freedom from regulators – had led to extreme cost-cutting and staff being bullied to meet targets
  • A “punitive and blame culture” derived from an “excessively top-down” structure
  • A “poor standard of incident reporting and investigations”
  • Careers were left “in limbo” due to a “chaotic” human resources department that “was not fit for purpose”
  • Dr Kirkup’s earlier review said the biggest clinical failures were arguably at Liverpool prison, where LCH provided services
  • Healthcare staff at the jail faced significant problems, including a lack of risk assessments, poor mental health services and the use of “unfit” equipment
  • “Unsafe practice had become accepted as normal,” at the prison, the review said

Four former members of LCH staff are due to face fitness to practice hearings at the Nursing and Midwifery Council later this month.

They include former director of nursing Helen Lockett, who was suspended in 2016.

LCH no longer exists, with most of its services now run by Merseycare, another NHS trust.

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