• Trust appeals to local organisations as two EDs rated ‘inadequate’
  • Worcestershire trust criticised for slow ambulance handovers and overcrowding
  • Trust has increased staff cover and will open new beds next week

The Care Quality Commission has downgraded two emergency departments run by Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust to “inadequate” ratings amid quality concerns and consistently poor ambulance handovers.

The move followed unannounced inspections at Worcestershire Royal Hospital and Alexandra Hospital in Redditch in December after concerns about patient care were reported.

The trust’s chief executive responded by appealing to “every organisation” in its patch to help it “close the gap” in capacity.

The decision comes just six months after the watchdog improved the trust’s urgent and emergency care and overall rating from “inadequate” to “requires improvement”. The trust, however, remained in special measures.

The CQC said the trust would have to clinically assess all patients arriving at Worcestershire Royal by ambulance within 15 minutes and increase the number of observations to make sure patients are referred to the most appropriate treatment area as quickly as possible.

The trust must also reduce waits for medical or surgical escalation, inspectors said.

The trust said it had already increased the number of staff working in both departments. It plans to open up 33 more beds at Worcestershire Royal next week.

Inspectors cited consistently poor ambulance handover times as a major problem at the unit. In December, the trust reported 797 ambulance handovers above 60 minutes. This was 253 more than in December 2018.

Some patients waited more than three hours to be seen in Worcestershire Royal’s department after arriving by ambulance, the CQC said.

The report also said patients continued to be treated in corridors as standard and there had only been limited improvements since the previous inspection. Inspectors’ greatest concern at Alexandra Hospital was overcrowding.

CQC chief inspector of hospitals Ted Baker said: “Underpinning the issues in both departments was a lack of capacity and capability in the trust and wider health system. [The] CQC has raised these issues since 2015, but the response so far has been insufficient and new improvement plans have not been progressed enough to take effect.”

Trust chief executive Matthew Hopkins apologised for the long waits and called on other departments and external partners for assistance.

He said: “This is yet another reminder of why it’s so important that every organisation in our local health and care system is working together to close the gap between the capacity we have to care for patients who need urgent or emergency care and the growing number of people in need of that care.”

He added: “We know there is more our trust has to do – and we are absolutely committed to doing it…

“We will continue to work hard to support our ED teams – but this is not a problem they can solve without our support and the continuing active involvement of the whole of our health and care system.”

The trust, which has been in special measures for four years, made national headlines in 2017 after two patients died on emergency department trolleys.