Delays, Overcrowding and “Unacceptable” Failings found in NHS Hospitals

17 March 2014

Delays, Overcrowding and “Unacceptable” Failings found in NHS Hospitals

A major NHS report on the state of present healthcare has determined that the NHS is rife with overcrowding at hospitals, delays for patients and unacceptable failings. The report follows a new NHS inspection regime and identified these problems were at their worst in Accident & Emergency units where outpatient care was singled out as unacceptably poor and where overcrowding and delays meant patients were waiting far too long in casualty units, to undergo tests and for appointments just to see a consultant for the first time. Mistreatment.com has seen in the past and with current enquiries how just these kind of problems can lay the basis for potential medical mistreatment and negligence.

"Unacceptably long delays"

The report was undertaken by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) who visited 18 hospitals across the country. More than two thirds of outpatient services at this cross-section of hospitals were typified by “unacceptably long” delays, cancellations of clinics at short notice and overcrowding. The CQC warned-and which Mistreatment.com also agrees with-is that these kind of risks seriously jeopardise patient care outcomes and places patient safety in considerable risk; in some cases the CQC found medical records could not be accessed, something Mistreatment.com has seen with clients complaining about medical mistreatment in their own cases.

The report states: “The services where we found the most problems were A&E, medical care and outpatients.”

"Insufficient staffing levels"

Looking at the report as a whole the CQC described outpatients services as the “least well performing”, with “unacceptably poor” care given to patients visiting hospitals to see specialists, and undergo tests and treatment.

Mistreatment.com has often been of the opinion that cuts to emergency provision at A&E is placing patients at risk, and this tallies with what CQC inspectors found in their report which was that A&E units were the services under the greatest strain.

“Overcrowding, long waiting times, and insufficient staffing levels were the commonest problems. We saw high levels of agency staff and locum use in A&E departments, particularly among doctors,” it says.

“Patients were not always moving through hospitals as they should have been, with delays from A&E to Acute Medical Units and then onwards to wards. We also found delays moving patients from critical care to surgical and medical wards and hospitals also had problems moving patients from wards back into the community.”

"Them and us culture"

In a disturbing reminder of the findings of the Francis Inquiry into the Mid-Staffs Scandal, the CQC inspectors found clear evidence of a culture within the hospitals, warning of a “them and us” culture found between medical staff and managers.

The CQC is undertaking a new system of inspections, with trusts rated to be outstanding, good, requiring improvement or inadequate. The cross-section of 18 hospitals chosen were the first to go through this specific type of inspection. Three hospitals were graded - and two of them were deemed to “require improvement”.

Inspectors said the Heart of England Foundation Trust in the Midlands and Dartford and Gravesham Trust required improvement.

The Royal Surrey County Hospital Foundation Trust was awarded a “good” rating.

The report said: “Inspectors found care and compassion among frontline staff in every hospital visited,

Prof Sir Mike Richards, chief inspector of hospitals, said the review was clearly working not least due to their unannounced nature and in conjunction with larger more expert teams.

He said: “Our experience so far shows we are moving in the right direction and we have had positive feedback from the hospitals and others. However, we will not rest on our laurels and are continuously improving our approach.”

Sir Mike added: “We are indebted to the hospitals that bravely volunteered for a trial rating. Ratings will be very helpful for patients, allowing them easy access to information about quality and allowing excellent hospitals to trumpet their own achievements.

“Where we find excellent patient care, we will make sure this is highlighted and reflected in the trust’s rating.”

"A&Es have been thrown into crisis"

Jamie Reed MP, Labour’s shadow health minister, said: “Labour has warned David Cameron about care failings on his watch. But his arrogance is making them more likely, not less. Sadly, these findings support our warnings of overcrowded hospitals and chaotic A&E units.

“Ministers turned the NHS upside down with a re-organisation that harmed patient care. A&Es have been thrown into crisis."

Mistreatment.com often receives enquiries from members of the public about exactly the kind of concerns and issues raised by the CQC report above. If you or a loved one has a similar experience where patient care was placed at risk, you can speak to our specialist teams who can provide you with free advice about what your options are.