The clinical lead for Rugby’s A&E department has described how the service is in crisis, suffering “toxic overcrowding” and frequently running “at the absolute margins of clinical safety”.
In a leaked letter, signed by 20 A&E chiefs in the West Midlands and sent to NHS trust chief executives last Friday, James Davidson, clinical Lead for emergency medicine at UHCW, also described how patients’ dignity is routinely sacrificed and that it’s known that “there are multiple examples of substandard care that go under the radar”.
The letter, leaked to the Independent this week, adds: “The position is such that we can no longer guarantee the provision of safe and high quality medical and nursing care in our Emergency Departments. It is not a case of standards slipping, but the inevitable consequence of being forced to work in sub-standard conditions.”
It was revealed last month that the number of people waiting at least four hours in the A&E department at University hospital in Coventry had more than doubled in the past year.
The Department of Health statistics revealed that in the first quarter of 2012/13, 804 out of 44,541 patients had to wait four hours or more, but by the end of the last quarter of last year the figure had risen to 1,728, despite the number of patients falling to 42,683.
The letter added: “We regularly see our EDs overwhelmed with patients, with all cubicles occupied, and no egress into the hospital forthcoming, while patients continue to pour through the doors.
“Our departments are simply not equipped to safely care for such numbers of patients, an increasing proportion of whom are elderly and frail with complex medical, nursing and social needs.
“All of the available evidence demonstrates that in-hospital mortality is increased when the ED is overcrowded and patients have to wait excessively for beds. Such overcrowding is now the norm in our EDs.”
David Eltringham, Chief Operating Officer at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust said: “The challenge for emergency departments is nationwide however, as a hospital trust we have taken all appropriate steps available to us to ensure patient safety is our priority.”