“WE cannot – and will not – accept the routine use of corridors to care for patients, or the long waits that keep ambulances off the road, or the conditions that our emergency department teams are currently working in.”
That was the promise from Worcestershire health trust chief executive Matthew Hopkins after another damning report by inspectors from the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
Inspectors had paid an unannounced visit to the Accident & Emergency department of Worcestershire Royal Hospital on January 14 ‘in response to concerning information we had received in relation to care of patients’ they said.
What they found must have come as no surprise to health chiefs at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust who have themselves raised concerns over patients waiting in corridors for treatment or hospital beds while ambulances queued up outside with more patients.
The inspectors were withering in their assessment of the emergency department (ED) at the Royal saying:
- Patients could not access the service when they needed to due to overcrowding. The time of arrival by ambulance to the initial assessment had increased and the time to treatment had increased and was worse than the previous year.
- Due to overcrowding there were significant delays in handing over patients from ambulances to the ED.
- There was insufficient space to accommodate all the patients at the time of the inspection with many patients cared for in corridors.
- Whilst risks to patients were generally assessed and their safety monitored and managed, not all patients received assessment and treatment in a timely manner due to overcrowding.
The inspectors also raised the alarm over the lack of staff in the children’s emergency department, something the trust acted immediately to rectify.
Some doctors also told them the department did not feel safe due to overcrowding
However, inspectors praised the care and compassion ‘shown at all times’ by staff for their patients.
They said staff were friendly, professional and caring even when under extreme pressure due to overcrowding and did everything in their capacity to maintain patient privacy and dignity.
The trust, which is currently rated as ‘Inadequate’ by the CQC, was told by the Chief Inspector of Hospitals Professor Edward Baker that it must:
- Reduce the number of ambulance handover delays.
- Ensure all patients receive timely initial assessments.
- Ensure all patients are seen by ED doctors and speciality doctors when needed.
- Reduce the number of patients cared for in corridor areas.
- Fully implement trust-wide actions to reduce overcrowding.
- Monitor that children using the service are not left unattended for periods of time.
- Implement additional training of staff who support the ED in times of high demand.
- Ensure there are enough medical staff for timely assessments and treatment.
Mr Hopkins said: “We have taken action since our most recent inspection to improve waiting times for patients in our EDs and reduce ambulance handover times.
“However, we recognise and share the CQC’s concerns about these issues and we know we need to do more, and do it quickly.
“We cannot – and will not – accept the routine use of corridors to care for patients, or the long waits that keep ambulances off the road, or the conditions that our ED teams are currently working in.”