Blood tests at Basildon Hospital contaminated in “major failure”

The majority of blood tests taken at Basildon Hospital to identify life-threatening illnesses have been contaminated in a “major failure”.

An investigation has been launched by health bosses, with staff shortages allegedly causing the issue with blood cultures.

Blood cultures, which look for germs or fungi in the blood and more deadly bacteria are routinely carried out ahead of operations.

However, latest figures show that 70 per cent of tests taken in the year up to January 2022 were found to be contaminated, leading to treatment being delayed as patients are re-tested.

The normal limit of contaminated tests would be below three per cent.

The issue was raised at a joint board meeting of the clinical commissioning groups, which oversee local healthcare, on March 24.

Katherine Kirk, chairman of quality and governance committee at the Basildon and Brentwood group, said: “If I’m understanding this right and it’s about the effectiveness of blood tests, what’s going on? It’s clearly a major failure.”

In response, Viv Barker, interim director of Nursing for Patient Safety, said: “There are significant concerns regarding the contaminant element of the blood cultures. It’s really important because you don’t get a clear picture of the growth and what you are wanting to screen.

“We have asked the trust, and the Basildon site specifically, to investigate this. But a lot of it looks back towards workforce issues and a lot of people were working to ‘nth’ of their skills.

“I know when I go back to my time in provider land we flipped from everybody being able to take blood cultures to only specific clinicians being able to take blood cultures because of the requirement for such an aseptic management of taking the cultures and those risks of contaminants.”

Ms Barnes added: “If you move to just having registrars and above you lose windows of opportunity in terms of time because you’re not going to be able to access that and then for everybody to have the skill you have to use it frequently to not lose it.

“It is a significant high for Basildon. It’s not just a few per cent over the norm of contaminant.”

The CCG said it is waiting for figures to come back on Southend and Broomfield hospital tests.


Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter