Bosses of Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital have vowed to put things right after a damning report criticised treatment standards, staff levels and management.
Poor care, breaches of legal requirements and out-of-date medicines were highlighted in the findings of a Care Quality Commission inspection published on Wednesday.
The report, based on visits in May, reveals that one patient had to wait 12 hours to receive prescribed feeding through a central line, while more than 70 people who were medically fit to be discharged had to wait to go home because of delays in social care assessments and treatments.
Concerns were also raised that medicines were not being stored securely, while the stocks on one ward should have been used by September of last year.
Trust chiefs said they were “very sorry” that some patients had received poor treatment, but insisted that action was already being taken to meet the concerns raised in the report.
And Kate Gordon, chairman of the hospital’s board of directors, said the focus should be on making the necessary improvements for patients, rather than considering their own positions.
She insisted she and her fellow board members took responsibility for the report’s findings, but continued: “Ultimately, the test is going to be what is the experience of people coming to the hospital.”
She said the hospital was performing well when judged on issues such as mortality rates and levels of infection.
And she added: “We don’t want to pretend it isn’t bad. It is bad, but a lot of the work going on in this hospital is of the highest standard. Our patients ought to be confident of that and our staff should be recognised for that.”
CQC inspectors found that the hospital was failing to meet all of nine national standards examined during three days of assessments carried out in May.
Of those, three – whether patients were asked if they agreed with a course of treatment before it began, inadequate staffing levels and failings in the assessment and monitoring of services – were deemed to have had a major impact on the public.
The report said: “Where patients did not have capacity to give consent the trust had not acted in accordance with legal requirements and had not taken steps to ensure they were acting in accordance with the patient’s best interests.”
The inspectors also found there had been a “steady decline” in the number of registered nurses employed at the hospital since May 2012.
During one week in January, there were 115 nursing shifts which could not be covered, while the accident and emergency department was run at an average of 78 per cent of the minimum necessary for it to operate safely over a four-week period in February and March.
And inadequacies in service monitoring meant that actions required following serious, but preventable, patient safety incidents in August and October of last year had still not been completed when the inspectors visited.
The commission said they had inspected the hospital after concerns were raised with them.
Andrea Gordon, the commission’s deputy director of operations, said: “Although our inspectors saw some good practice, the failings we found at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital are a real concern.
“We have been working closely with our partner agencies with regard to the trust and we will be closely monitoring its progress on the improvements it needs to make.
“Our inspectors have returned to the hospital to check additional concerns which we have recently been informed of, and the details of this inspection will be published online in due course.”
The hospital had to submit an action plan detailing how it intends to tackle the problems highlighted in the report by the weekend, but officials say measures have already been taken.
Efforts to recruit extra staff are set to continue until the end of the year and an additional 40 nurses are currently being hired, on top of a further 40 who joined over the past two months and some newly-qualified staff who are set to start work next month.
Dr Bev Watson, the trust’s joint medical director, said the trust was committed to restoring staffing levels to 2012 levels, but warned that recruiting sufficient numbers of nurses was a nationwide problem.
She said: “There’s lots of judgement about the NHS and I don’t think that encourages people.
“We face an ongoing problem. We’re in a retirement part of the country and those things make it very difficult to stay ahead of the game.”
Extra money will be spent on improving the accident and emergency department to increase assessment and treatment space, while four extra consultants will also be recruited.
Reviews of staffing requirements on each ward are being carried out, while training on issues relating to patient consent is also set to be improved.
And an independent review of management procedures to deal with issues of concern has also been commissioned.
Mrs Gordon admitted there was a lot to do, but vowed: “We will do everything in our power to ensure the appropriate action is taken to get services back on track and ensure that the trust provides the high quality care that local people expect.”
The body that is responsible for ordering health and social care services in West Norfolk has revealed that it shares inspectors’ concerns about care at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
Following the publication of the Care Quality Commission report, the borough’s care commissioning group said it is working with trust managers to find ways to improve patients’ experience.
Chief officer Sue Crossman said: “We continuously monitor the quality of services provided by the hospital. We have put in place clear plans for the trust to implement actions to address our areas of concern which are broadly reflected in the CQC findings.
“Ensuring quality of care for the patients of West Norfolk is our highest priority and we will not accept poor standards of care in our locality.”
However, North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham has backed the hospital’s managers to turn things around.
Describing the report as a “wake up call”, he said: “I support the board. I have confidence in them and I think it would be quite wrong if they did not see this through, but they really have to take action now. I don’t think anything would be achieved by senior management resigning.”
He suggested that the situation should be reviewed in six months’ time to see if the trust’s plans for change had improved things.
Meanwhile, South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss said: “Residents deserve the very best in their hospital care and the report is of great concern.
“Patients want to be reassured that the Queen Elizabeth Hospital is capable of providing safe and efficient treatment and I want to know that action is being taken as a matter of urgency with a review of operational procedures fully underway.”