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King's Lynn's Queen Elizabeth Hospital draws lessons from pandemic in report

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Lynn's Queen Elizabeth Hospital has today published its ‘Learning from the Covid-19 pandemic’ report into suspected transmission of the virus to patients while being treated.

The report concludes a four-month reflective period in which the trust has spoken to each patient who definitely or likely contracted Covid-19, or next-of-kin for patients who sadly died after contracting Covid-19 in the trust’s care.

The report states that between March 1, 2020 and February 28, 2021, 1,761 patients tested positive for Covid-19 at the QEH and of these, 389 "regrettably either definitely or probably contracted the virus while in our care, and sadly 151 of these patients died at QEH".

Lynn's Queen Elizabeth Hospital (51803752)
Lynn's Queen Elizabeth Hospital (51803752)

The remaining patients were discharged from its care.

The QEH said it is committed to getting it right for patients and their families and implementing the important learning from this report.

It concludes by saying that: "As we look back over the last 18-months, while there are occasions we have fallen short or not been able to deliver the care we would have wished for all of our patients and their families, there is lots of good practice that should not be forgotten.

"One of the biggest lessons we’ve learned from Covid-19 is that when the community is working together and indeed when ‘Team QEH’ pulls together, we are capable of doing amazing things."

Staff on the ward at the QEH. (51803784)
Staff on the ward at the QEH. (51803784)

The report had found that while PPE was often in low supply, it never ran out at QEH. "However, it did lead to anxiety for many staff members and patients. Additional training and support was required to ensure that all staff understood what PPE they needed and how best to use it. A change in mindset was also noticed from an emphasis on protecting self to protecting others, and the impact on others."

A shortage of siderooms at the QEH meant some patients suffered numerous moves as staff tried to limit exposure to Covid.

The report said: "During the pandemic, we evolved how we used these side rooms to best effect. We also undertook building work to physically separate some bays or areas. This included introducing one-way systems, social distancing, introducing multiple screens, increasing the spacing between beds. We also closely followed national guidance on isolating contacts of patients with a positive swab. We brought in regular staff swabbing when lateral flow tests became widely available, and continue to undertake repeated swabs on the day of admission as well as on day three and day six for all patients admitted to our care, whether they have symptoms of Covid-19 or not."

A staff member receives her jab (51803773)
A staff member receives her jab (51803773)

It added: "This learning will stay with us for our lifetimes, and at QEH we are absolutely determined to reflect and learn, and to make and embed the necessary changes in memory of all those who have had their lives changed forever.

"Our patients, their families and our staff deserve nothing less."

More than 50 per cent of patients and their families the trust made contact with as part of the Duty of Candour exercise reported that they had no concerns or issues and were thankful and appreciative of the care that they received.

However, key themes raised by some ex-patients and next-of-kin about their experience included, poor care and communication, infection prevention and control concerns, multiple moves and lost property.

Ambulances outside the QEH at Kings Lynn. (51803778)
Ambulances outside the QEH at Kings Lynn. (51803778)

"Individuals spoke of not being able to see their loved one and all too often finding it difficult to get through to the ward to know what was going on.

"Some spoke very negatively of the number of moves they had while in our care, often moving from ward to ward and on occasions there were multiple moves for an individual patient, which was of concern and is unacceptable practice."

“Mum was moved too many times,” was a typical comment, the report says.

Four recommendations in the report says communication with patients and their loved ones needs to be improved and management of infection prevention and control "needs to be everybody's business with PPE, distancing and other safety requirements still necessary.

It then says: "The trust has more work to do to ensure patients receive care on the ward that best meets their individual needs first time more often – preventing multiple and unnecessary ward moves which too often results in a poor patient experience and leads to a breakdown in communication between the hospital, patients and their families."

The report says tablets and smartphones were invested in and facilitated virtual visiting for patients in our care and continued use of these has presented opportunities for families some distance away to talk with their loved ones.

Having received widespread praise for their commitment to their Duty of Candour the trust has contacted or personally met with all patients or next-of-kin to apologise to those affected and answer any questions they had.

The report has been shared with all affected patients and next-of-kin and is available on the Trust’s public website – here.

Caroline Shaw, chief executive, said: “QEH takes pride in consistently being an open and honest organisation, as demonstrated by our four-month Duty of Candour exercise.

"Covid-19 brought unprecedented challenges to QEH and the wider NHS, however, there is clear learning from our response to the pandemic and from this Duty of Candour exercise that we are taking forward so that we can further improve the care and experience for our future patients and their families.

"This includes strengthening communication between patients, their loved ones and those delivering care, ensuring the management of infection control is everybody’s business and continuing to follow the necessary precautions to ensure everyone’s safety and prevent the spread of the virus and preventing multiple and unnecessary ward moves which during the pandemic often resulted in a poor patient experience and a breakdown in communication between the hospital, patients and their families.

"We must also continue to maximise the use of digital devices and technology to further improve communication between patients and their families during hospital stays.”

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