London Hospital's A&E 'Not Fit For Purpose'

Inspectors Find Shortcomings Within The A&E Department At The Queen Elizabeth Hospital In Woolwich

13.05.2014

The Chief Inspector of Hospitals in England has voiced concerns that the accident and emergency department at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich is "not fit for purpose".

In a report released by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), inspectors found a number of issues with the quality of service provided at two hospitals in the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust.

Waiting times were found to be far in excess of what would normally be expected and the trust has now said it will develop an action plan in order to tackle the issues found by the CQC.

One of the main concerns highlighted by inspectors was that waste was not managed properly, with a number of areas identified where clinical waste was improperly stored, including general bins containing used hypodermic needles, which should have been disposed of separately.

A lack of staffing was also raised as an issue by the CQC. In many medical wards, patients told the watchdog that their call bells were not being answered - sometimes for more than 30 minutes at a time.

But perhaps the most pressing problem found by inspectors was the lack of staff at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital's accident and emergency department, where an over-reliance on agency staff was noted.

While executives at the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust have pledged to fill vacancies at the hospital's A&E, the CQC could not find any progress in this regard.

Speaking to the BBC, Dr Nigel Acheson of NHS England said: "On the Queen Elizabeth site, the A&E environment is not considered by the inspecting team to be fit for purpose.

"Following admission via A&E, delays in access to investigation were witnessed, and also delays in accessing specialist internal opinion and by external transfer to specialist units."

In a statement released to the press, Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust said it was in the process of making a number of improvements and will review its A&E in due course.

Expert Opinion
The results of the CQC report are very concerning and show the need for urgent improvements to be made by the Trust to prevent patients from being put at unnecessary risk.

“It is vital that hospital wards have the appropriate resource and members of staff to maintain safe levels of care. Patients’ call bells being left unanswered for up to 30 minutes is simply not acceptable.

“In a growing, ageing population A&E departments are often the first port of call for many patients who need fast medical attention. The Trust must urgently prove to the CQC that it has taken its findings seriously and tackled its staffing issues to reassure the watchdog and its patients that safety is not being jeopardised.”
Mandy Luckman, Partner