Hospital trust still failing patients months after warning to improve

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A hospital trust where treating people in A&E corridors has become "institutionalised" is still failing on patient safety months after inspectors first flagged concerns.

An inspection team found there had been "no tangible improvement" at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust nearly two years after it was first placed in special measures, and six months after it was formally warned to improve.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC), which visited in April, found efforts to cut "over-crowding" in the emergency departments at both the trust's main hospitals "were not effective".

Detailing the problems in a report published on Tuesday, the chief inspector of hospitals said there were still "insufficient numbers" of A&E consultants in either hospital,.

There was no proper system to assess and manage patient risk in the emergency departments, and inspectors "observed staff did not always wash their hands before and after patient contact".

The report, published on Tuesday, said staff were also not using privacy screens for A&E patients being treated in corridors.

"Patients were given meals in their hands by the staff, but there was nowhere to rest plates and cups so they could eat their food with dignity," inspectors found.

"Routine nursing observations, conversations about care and eating of meals were undertaken in a public space with other patients and relatives passing by."

The number of patients waiting more than four hours to be admitted or discharged was also "consistently higher than the national average".

These failures come despite the trust, which runs the Worcestershire Royal in Worcester and the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch, being issued a separate warning notice, known as Section 29a, in November last year.

The latest inspection focused on adult care, emergency departments, medical care, surgery, maternity and gynaecology, and children and young people.

Although some improvements have been seen, the trust is still rated inadequate overall.

In his report conclusion, hospitals chief inspector Prof Sir Mike Richards, said: "There was no tangible improvement in performance, caring for patients in the corridors in the emergency departments had become institutionalised and we found patient's privacy, dignity and effective care remained compromised.

"The trust senior leaders were not effectively addressing these risks through a whole hospital approach."

He added: "Due to level of concerns found across a number of services and because the quality of health care provided required significant improvement, we served the trust with a new warning notice."

The trust remains in special measures and has until next month to show improvement.