Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Inspector's A&E safety fears

EMERGENCY services for Solihull patients have been criticised by the official health watchdog with concerns including safety.

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The Care Quality Commission (CQC) raised concerns about Solihull Hospital and Birmingham Heartlands Hospital, which deals with the most serious borough cases.

A November inspection at Solihull said it “is in effect a minor injuries unit and a medical assessment unit jointly bearing an A&E sign” following a series of downgradings.

Pointing out doctors are on site from 8am to 8pm only, it said: “We do not feel it would be appropriate to rate this service as an A&E department.”

Its report warned of a “lack of resources” to run as a medical A&E, for conditions related to disease and organ function. Trauma injury cases go to Heartlands.

The report said: “Many of the patients we saw in the unit had been there longer than four hours, and it was not clear how this was being monitored on a daily basis.

“Doctors we spoke to said it was not uncommon for patients to wait longer than four hours to be seen and, although we had no direct evidence that this was unsafe because they would
have regular observations performed.”

Yet it said the unit – which sees about 45,000 a year -  is “not a responsive or patient-centred service” and raised concerns about the critical care department.

Here it said “lack of training and experience of staff and the types of patients admitted could potentially become unsafe”.

Most services though were safe, it said, but warned patients who walk into the department could be at risk if they need to go to Heartlands.

At Heartlands, in Bordesley Green, the CQC report said there was “no effective” prioritising system “and the speed of decision making and treatment was poor”.

It said of its visit “The hospital struggled with patient flows as the A&E department continued to see increasing numbers of patients.”

Recruitment is taking place but “shortages of nursing staff were preventing people from receiving good treatment and care” it said.

It said: “Some nursing staff shortages and delay in assessment within A&E, which had an effect on patients’ safety.” In general, both hospitals were effective, it said.

The CQC also raised concerns about waiting times. Latest figures – for the week to January 5 – show 91.1 per cent of patients were seen in four hours at the hospitals, plus Good Hope, Sutton Coldfield.

The target is 95 per cent and this means 378 waited longer than four hours.