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Risk to patients revealed in Cumbria hospitals' staff logs

Category: England

Published: 21st May 2012 06:14:40

Medical staff at two hospitals in Carlisle and Whitehaven believe patients are being put at risk, according to logs seen by the BBC.

The reports from staff include a patient's oxygen being turned off as well as reports of accident and emergency departments being unsafe.

A retired hospital inspector said the logs should "set alarm bells ringing".

North Cumbria University Hospitals Trust said it had a robust system for monitoring and investigating incidents.

Log entries by medical staff at Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle and West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven feature in the Medical Weekly Reports Live and cover a two-week period in April.

There are several reports of the accident and emergency department at the Cumberland Infirmary being considered unsafe by the team running it.

On 16 April, staff reported a lack of beds, lack of staff and lack of monitors, with paramedics monitoring a pregnant patient in a corridor. The day before the department was described as "dangerous" and "not even meeting basic nursing care for patients".

The entries appear to show evidence staff concerns were ignored.

On 22 April, a clinician reported to their manager that the "department is unsafe and patients would be in corridor as no beds identified". They say the situation was not escalated to the director on call and they rang the deputy director of nursing themselves.

The clinician indicated concern over shortages of beds, equipment including cot sides and mattresses that relieve pressure wounds, as well as staff shortages.

Dr Heather Wood, a retired hospital inspector with the Healthcare Commission who reviewed the papers, said the logs should "set alarm bells ringing".

"What jumps out is a worry about what's called the emergency care pathway, patients coming to A and E," she said.

"Are they being seen and treated quickly, and admitted appropriately?

"In themselves, they wouldn't have been enough to trigger an investigation, but I think it is true there would have been enough to set alarm bells ringing."

• A failure to provide care for patients suffering haematemesis - when a patient is throwing up blood - out of hours

• A patient requiring dialysis was removed from a waiting list without the knowledge of her consultant or nurse specialist

• Another patient who required oxygen was found in a very poor condition on a ward in the Cumberland Infirmary as her oxygen had been turned off

• A patient with stomach pains was waiting for ultrasound results, which were not passed on to medical teams, despite indicating he needed emergency surgery

Last year, some staff raised fears a cash crisis at the two hospitals could be putting patient welfare at risk. But the trust insisted patient care was not suffering.

In a statement, North Cumbria University Hospitals Trust did not respond directly to the logs, but said it was part of encouragement to staff for "open and transparent reporting of incidents".

"As part of improving the feedback to staff, the Trust produces a weekly report on incidents reported across the Trust," it said.

"This is to ensure that lessons can be shared across wards and departments and encourages an open and transparent patient safety culture for the reporting of incidents and near misses.

"The trust has a robust system for monitoring incidents and investigating them thoroughly, this includes a weekly review by the director of nursing, medical director and director of governance to ensure incident trends or incidents which have resulted in a high impact or adverse outcome are immediately reviewed."

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BBC News, 2012. Risk to patients revealed in Cumbria hospitals' staff logs [Online] (Updated 21st May 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1429808/Risk-to-patients-revealed-in-Cumbria-hospitals-staff-logs [Accessed 30th Aug 2014]

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