Published: 06:00, 07 January 2020
| Updated: 14:04, 08 January 2020
A hospital which missed key deadlines to keep patients safe under a new system could face legal action if warnings are left unaddressed.
Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust, which runs Darent Valley Hospital, in Dartford, currently has six open safety alerts against its name - the joint highest of all trusts operating across NHS England.
Among the outstanding alerts include actions to avoid babies being dropped and correct use of air flowmeters.
Alerts are issued by national bodies, NHS Improvement and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency where action needs to be taken and a solution identified.
They form part of a new monitoring system which reveals trusts which have consistently failed to meet deadlines.
The latest figures show a total of 90 safety alerts were not met within the given timeframe as of 10 December.
Of these, three hospital trusts – including Dartford and Gravesham Trust which manages the Dartford hospital - had six open alerts each.
"Failure to take the actions required under these alerts could lead to CQC taking regulatory action..." CQC’s chief inspector of hospitals Professor Ted Baker
Now the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has said it would look to take "regulatory action" for any trust's failure to comply.
CQC’s chief inspector of hospitals, Professor Ted Baker, said: “The National Patient Safety Alert Committee (NAPSAC) was set up in response to a recommendation we made last year for a standardised patient safety alert system.
"CQC fully supports the recent introduction of the new national patient safety alerts and we have committed to looking closely at how NHS trusts are implementing these safety alerts as part of our monitoring and inspection activity."
Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust spokesman Glyn Oakley said its response to alerts was monitored by a special committee and it was currently reviewing all historic alerts.
“Patient safety remains our highest priority," he said. "As part of good governance and as a precautionary measure, we are currently reviewing historic safety alerts and auditing practice to ensure compliance continues in line with the alert or subsequent revisions.
"We can assure patients that safety and quality of care is taken extremely seriously at the Trust and safety alerts are an important part of that process.
"All NHS organisations routinely receive a large number of safety alerts which are flagged and acted upon on receipt.
"Monitoring the actions requested from alerts is also essential and mandated within the alert."
He explained the Trust had re-opened some historical alerts and undertaken reviews to ensure appropriate actions remain in place.
"Even when there is no evidence of any harm to patients, it’s about being thorough," he said.
The Trust said it has since closed two of the outstanding alerts, adding one further alert will close at the end of January following regional agreement on actions.
It said it would complete monitoring of the remainder before moving to fully close these and has alerted the CQC of this process.