Leicester hospitals must do better say inspectors in damning new report

Leicester hospitals have been condemned for long waiting lists, headcount and driving in a new report from inspectors – who have ordered the local NHS trust to do a better job.

Inspectors from the Care Quality Commission first carried out a spot check at Leicester Royal Hospital’s accident and emergency department in April over concerns about the standard of care it was providing. Then it issued a damning report saying patients were waiting too long to be admitted, which had led to some preventable deaths.

CQC inspectors then returned in June for a more detailed examination, this time focusing on surgery at Glenfield Hospital, which had also become a concern. They found that the University Hospitals of Leicester (UHL) NHS Trust as a whole had left 32,000 patients waiting for more than 10 weeks for elective surgery and cancer care. Of those, 168 were waiting between 100 and 109 weeks.

Read more: Health services apologize for lost target as more than 1,000 patients wait more than an hour in ambulances outside A&E in September

They have now said in a damning report published today that the trust has one of the worst backlogs in treating cancer patients in England.

They also found that 1,686 heart disease patients were awaiting operations at Glenfield Hospital at the time of the inspection. Of these, 379 heart disease patients had been on the list for more than 50 weeks, 100 for more than 70 weeks, and 13 for more than 100 weeks. The inspectors said at the time of their visit that the waiting list was only getting bigger.

The report adds that employees are leaving due to “burnout”, stress from the pandemic and financial pressures. Glenfield Hospital in particular did not have enough nursing staff on the wards to meet patients’ needs due to a high number of vacancies and sick staff, which meant it was dependent on agency and bank staff to keep patients safe.

Staff shortages and incoming emergencies also led to operations being canceled on the day they were supposed to take place. One patient at Glenfield Hospital at the time of the examination had had his operation canceled three times. Shortages in the thoracic cast meant that lung cancer patients were not always treated within the 21- and 62-day targets.

One patient said that the staff seemed “overworked”, that they had to ring several times before the staff came and the things they were promised did not happen. Some staff also said they felt guilty for not having as much time to spend with patients as they would have liked, inspectors said.

There was also a maintenance backlog in each operating room – which could result in the hospital not meeting safety standards – and not all medical equipment in the wards was regularly maintained in violation of the Trust’s legal obligations.

The inspectors said: “It was concerning that staff were using old equipment either without checking or knowing they needed service.”

The inspectors rated confidence as overall requiring improvement, the second lowest possible rating and highlighted safety, driving and service responsiveness as areas of concern. However, they rated Interest and Effectiveness as good. The inspectors noted that a number of improvements had been made after the inspection in June.

But the hospital trust itself admitted it still had a lot of work to do. Leicester Hospitals Chief Executive Richard Mitchell said: “We fully accept the findings in the CQC report and welcome recommendations for improvement. Patient safety is our number one priority and we are happy to remain ‘good’ at care.

“This reflects the dedication and commitment our colleagues show every day in difficult circumstances. We have been open and honest about the challenges we face in consistently delivering high-quality, timely care at the UHL.

“This includes the number of patients waiting for elective treatment as a result of the pandemic. Through focused actions, we have significantly reduced the number of people waiting more than 104 weeks for care. While we still have a lot to do, we are making progress.”

The report acknowledges the significant internal roads made in terms of leadership, culture and operations over the past year – as well as the significant improvement in our financial governance. We’re also on track to receive our highest employee survey response rate this year, reflecting our commitment to ensuring the colleague experience is at the heart of improvement.

“UHL is committed to implementing all recommendations in the report, with oversight provided by the Credit Board. We will work closely with communities, colleagues and partners as we continue to improve UHL as a place to receive care.”

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