A SNAP inspection by the health watchdog found major causes for concern in the accident and emergency departments at both the Worcestershire Royal and Alexandra Hospitals.
The key issue was over staffing, with the inspectors finding senior nursing staff considered the department ‘not safe’ at times due to the high volume of patients.
In a report, the inspectors, members of the Care Quality Commission, said: “At both sites (Redditch and Worcester) we saw evidence of the departments being ‘overwhelmed’.
“However, the escalation process could not always be carried out because there were no more staff available.
“This meant that the department was not able to manage the situation safely,” they added.
The inspection, on March 24, was sparked by the resignation of five A&E consultants, four from the Alex, who said that changes proposed by Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust (WAHT) were unsafe and would not provide a proper, fit for purpose emergency service.
With regard to medical staff, the inspectors found there was only one consultant dealing with trauma calls on site after 5pm covering both Worcestershire Royal and the Alex – two hospitals 18 miles apart.
Other concerns included failure to routinely screen children for safeguarding concerns, lack of space in A&E which led to patients being put in corridors and, at Worcester, date-expired equipment on resuscitation trolleys – with staff explaining they often did not have enough time to check equipment.
Inspectors also found delays in handing over ambulance patients and also three breaches in health regulations, with thirsty patients in some cases struggling to get fluids.
As a result of the inspection, England’s chief inspector of hospitals, Professor Sir Mike Richards, has placed a condition on WAHT’s registration and issued a warning following an inspection.
WAHT will undergo a comprehensive inspection next month, where CQC will follow up on the findings of the March inspection.
Chris Tidman, acting chief executive for WAHT, said: “The report reflects what was a very difficult time for our emergency departments – particularly at Worcestershire Royal Hospital. We know that improvement was needed in some areas of our practice and have been working hard to make the necessary changes.
“It is 12 weeks since the CQCs visit and, since then, there have been a number of significant improvements. This included expanding the Emergency Department at Worcester to create an additional 12 cubicles, increasing staffing levels and recruiting Emergency Department assistants to provide additional support, improving security, introducing new care and comfort rounds for patients and significantly reduced ambulance handover times.
“Our focus remains on ensuring that all of our hospitals are fit to cope with the growing pressures we are facing and providing safe, quality care for all of our patients.”