Top-level government talks called into Colchester Hospital crisis
12:59 16 November 2014
An Essex MP has called urgent talks with the health secretary about the ongoing crisis at Colchester Hospital.
Sir Bob Russell suggested he had been misguided into thinking the hospital was on course to turn round its fortunes before revelations surfaced of staff being unable to cope with patient demand.
The Colchester MP said that despite sensing a corner had been turned following a meeting with the hospital’s chief executive a fortnight ago, he was now under the impression that the corner had “not even been reached”.
His comments come after patients were asked to stay away from Colchester Hospital’s accident and emergency department unless they had a serious or life threatening condition.
It followed news on Thursday that a major internal incident had been declared at the hospital as it hit capacity. The Care Quality Commission (CQC) had raised concerns over safeguarding following an inspection the day before.
A review found staff stretched to look after too many patients with not enough beds.
Although specific figures were not given, health chiefs said the number of attendances at A&E had stayed high all year round, instead of following a seasonal trend.
Sir Bob said: “I had a meeting with the hospital’s interim chief executive two weeks ago, and left with the distinct impression that the corner had been turned.
“What I am now hearing suggests that the corner has not even been reached.
“I am urgently raising my concerns with the secretary of state for health, Jeremy Hunt.”
The major incident is now likely to last into the week, with bosses urging the public to think twice before they visit A&E.
Dr Shane Gordon, chief clinical officer at the North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “A&E should only be used for critical or life-threatening situations requiring medical attention, such as loss of consciousness, heavy blood loss, suspected broken bones, persistent chest pain, difficulty breathing, overdoses, ingestion or poisoning.
“It is vital that emergency services are free to help people with the greatest need. Patients with minor injuries which do not require a visit to A&E, such as cuts, wounds, sprains, strains and minor burns, can also be treated at walk-in medical centres or minor injury units across north east Essex.
“This will significantly help to relieve pressure on the hospital’s A&E teams and reduce waiting times for all patients.”
The problem at Colchester Hospital has been compounded by a lack of available beds in other departments, meaning patients are unable to move through A&E.
Demand at the front end has been labelled “unprecedented”, leading to a whole hospital review of demand, capacity, staffing levels and discharge processes, and other opportunities for improvement.
Patients are now being advised to treat themselves for simple illness and minor cuts, sprains and burns, and to keep simple painkillers and cough remedies in a safe place at home and “have a first aid kit handy”.