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Investigation into why two patients waited more than 150 hours at A&E

Posted on - 21st March, 2024 - 7:00am | Author - | Posted in - Fylde News, Health, Preston News, Ribble Valley News, South Ribble News, Wyre News
The meeting was not told at which of the four hospital trusts the excessive delays had occurred

An investigation is under way into why two patients endured waits of more than 150 hours in Lancashire’s accident and emergency system.

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The cases were reported to a meeting of the Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care Board (ICB), which heard that the region was on track to meet a strict national target set for overall A&E performance by the end of this month.

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However, concern was expressed over the two isolated incidents, which board chair David Flory said amounted to the patients having spent “nearly a week in the emergency department”.

Read more: Wet winter blamed for pothole repair backlog on Lancashire roads

The meeting was not told at which of the four hospital trusts in the ICB area the excessive delays had occurred – nor whether both were at the same facility or different hospitals.

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The Local Democracy Reporting Service requested further details and was told that the cases were “complex” and not routine A&E admissions   However, the ICB declined to identify the the trusts concerned while the probe into the waits was ongoing.

Board members heard that “root causes analysis” was being carried out into each of the cases, the outcome of which would be reported to the organisation’s quality committee.

As part of a review of recent urgent and emergency care performance across the region, the ICB’s chief operating officer, Professor Craig Harris, said he was “confident” that Lancashire and South Cumbria would collectively meet the national target for 76 percent of A&E patients to be admitted, transferred or discharged from emergency departments within four hours of arrival – “if everything keeps going according to our current expectations”.

However, he acknowledged that the area’s A&Es had been through “ a very challenging time” – including as a result of industrial action by junior doctors during February –  and said that he had met with his counterparts at individual NHS trusts to discuss remedial action plans.

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The latest published data shows that 75.4 percent of A&E patients across Lancashire and South Cumbria passed through the emergency department they attended within the four-hour standard during February.  However, there was some variation between the four trusts in the area:

Lancashire Teaching Hospitals (Royal Preston and Chorley Hospital) – 67.9 percent

University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay, (Royal Lancaster Infirmary and Furness General) – 71.5 percent;

East Lancashire Hospitals (Royal Blackburn) – 76.6 percent;

Blackpool Teaching Hospitals (Blackpool Victoria) – 79.6 percent.

Meanwhile, papers presented to the meeting also revealed that NHS England was still  “actively considering” whether to escalate the level of national intervention being received by Lancashire and South Cumbria in relation to its urgent and emergency care services.

The region is currently in the lowest ‘tier 3’ bracket, which Professor Harris said he considered to be the appropriate one – but he added that reviews were expected for any areas “teetering on the edge [of one category and another]”.

Non-executive board member Jim Birrell said he considered the overall picture locally to be “scary”.

“Seventy-six percent may be the national [target]…[but] if you’re the patient waiting that length of time, this is still not a good performance,” he added.

However, his non-executive colleague Sheena Cumiskey praised what she said was “an awful lot of really good work going on in this area”, for which she thanked staff across the system.

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NHS England last month told ICBs nationwide to work with the hospital trusts within their patches to identify the top three initiatives that needed to be implemented in order to ensure the 76 percent A&E target was hit by the end of March.

In Lancashire and South Cumbria it was agreed to focus on the promotion of alternatives to the use of emergency departments – including ‘same day emergency care’ – the “optimisation of staffing rotas” and making best use of available space to improve patient flow.

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