Staff have 'lost trust' with Basildon Hospital bosses over nitrous oxide saga

Staff have 'lost trust' - Basildon Hospital <i>(Image: PA)</i>
Staff have 'lost trust' - Basildon Hospital (Image: PA)

STAFF at Basildon have “lost trust” in bosses after the results of health testing for high levels of nitrous oxide were kept hidden.

Hospital bosses first learnt of Entonox - nitrous oxide used as pain relief during labour - in the ward since the summer of 2021.

Nitrous Oxide personal sampling was completed on June 15, 2021, with high results found in nine staff members.

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However, those nine staff were not told they had recorded high tests leading to large amounts of anxiety and a level of distrust between management and staff.

The nine staff who recorded high tests but were not told have been offered both psychological and wellbeing support and have received an apology from the hospital.

Results ranged from from 107 to 2983.7 parts per million (ppm) - when the legal workplace limit is 100ppm - but the report was not shared with staff for 18 months.

“We have lost trust in the hospital after we were kept in the dark so long, with everyone acting as if everything was okay,” one midwife told the Echo.

“We are frustrated that they had our test results for all that time and nobody thought to tell us.

“Or maybe nobody was brave enough to do so.”

The results of this testing were sent in a report to the maternity department in June 2021. However, it was not shared with the staff involved.

Hospital documents from a board meeting state “it is unclear of what processes were followed in terms of sharing and escalation, however, it is noted that this was added to the risk register at that time.”

Three mobile destruction units were ordered but only installed in October 2022 - which prompted staff to challenge bosses on the matter.

On October 11 the trust’s executive body was informed that the results had been kept from staff.

“This caused a significant amount of anxiety and distrust between staff and senior leadership team,” the meeting documents added.

A spokesperson for Mid and South Essex NHS Trust, said: “We have followed all of the expert advice provided to us to deal with the issue of nitrous oxide in the air at our maternity unit at Basildon Hospital.

“Significant improvements have been made and it is perfectly safe for service users and their families to continue to use the maternity unit as normal. We have taken action to resolve the situation and an investigation is underway.

“Support and advice is being offered to our staff. Mitigations have been put in place, based on clinical recommendations, and we are continuing to keep our staff informed.”