In October, our volunteers made two visits to the ED at Hinchingbrooke Hospital to listen to local people’s experiences. These visits were unannounced and made using our power to Enter and View. This is Healthwatch's legal right to visit places that provide publicly funded health or care, to see and hear how people experience those services.
Our report makes eleven recommendations to improve care. These are based on what we observed and what 64 patients told us about their experiences.
The recommendations have been accepted by the Trust who have developed an action plan to address them.
In particular, we wanted to see:
- Consistent staffing of the reception desk.
- Improved confidentiality at the triage desk.
We found that most hospital staff were friendly and helpful - even when the department was busy, they were approachable.
Patients in the ED were seen within the four-hour target, with about half being seen within one hour.
However, on one of our visits, we were told that there were no empty beds in the hospital so people could not be admitted to the wards until other patients were discharged. Two patients were also waiting in ambulances which meant those ambulance crews could not then leave to care for other patients.
An important part of this visit was also about looking at how the whole system of urgent and emergency care is working for people.
We asked if patients had contacted another health service, such as their GP or NHS 111, before visiting the hospital.
60% of the people we spoke to had contacted their GP or another service before they visited the ED. Many hadn’t, but we didn’t know how many of these would have been better treated elsewhere in the system. This is an issue that affects all our local emergency and urgent care services.
We will make sure we also share this report with the local health commissioners. It will help them understand the reality of the choices patients feel they have when they need urgent or emergency care.
More about the visit
Although ‘unannounced’ the visits were planned with the knowledge and input of senior staff and the hospital was given a two-week window when they knew we would visit. The hospital wanted our feedback to help them improve care within the department which was assessed as requiring improvement in the Care Quality Commission report published in August.
We will check with the hospital again in six-months’ time, to see what progress they have made against our recommendations.