Warning over multiple action plans at under-fire hospital

QEH, King's Lynn
Photo:Ian Burt
EDP pics © 2004

QEH, King's Lynn Photo:Ian Burt Copy: For:EDP EDP pics © 2004 (01603)772434 - Credit: Archant � 2004

Warnings are being made against heaping multiple action plans on an under-fire hospital.

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn was ordered to take action to improve in nine separate areas including storage of medicines and respecting patient privacy, dignity and independence, after a visit over three days by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in August.

A day later it was told that the independent regulator Monitor would also be using its regulatory powers to ensure it met the Accident and Emergency (A&E) waiting time target of seeing 95pc of patients in four hours, which it has missed for three consecutive quarters.

That led to a stream of people demanding action, with MPs Elizabeth Truss and Henry Bellingham calling for an urgent meeting with health secretary Jeremy Hunt, on top of a more regular set of government inspections and the QEH's own action plan to deal with the issues raised.

Tomorrow councillors sitting on Norfolk County Council's health overview and scrutiny committee will also scrutinise a report by the QEH to address concerns raised by the regulators.

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The West Norfolk Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), the organisation responsible for planning and buying health services in the area, also said it had established regular meetings with hospital clinicians to monitor progress.

However Dr Sue Crossman, the CCG's chief operating officer, has now said: 'What's important is that we consolidate a growing number of remedial action plans and targets in place', so there is a 'clear focus on key actions that will have a significant impact'.

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She added: 'There is a danger that with so many organisations with performance concerns that it will end up layering action plans on top of each other.'

Dr Ian Mack, the CCG's chairman, said his group was trying to help with 'rationalising things, rather than having a multiplicity of action plans'.

He said it was important for the QEH to have a single action plan which would help with the 'crystallisation' of its goals.

Previously Dr Mack had said he was pleased the QEH's senior clinicians had been so engaged with the CCG about how to address the findings, with Dr Crossman adding: 'Staff in all departments we've had contact with have been extremely open.'

Shortly after the CQC was published the QEH released details of its action plan, which outlined how locks would be put on all cupboards containing intravenous fluids after concerns were raised about medicines being stored unsafely.

It added that 'the trust is taking a range of actions to improve flow through the A&E unit to reduce demand and therefore address capacity constraints', with £3.9m of government funding announced shortly afterwards to help expand space in A&E.

The hospital has also talked extensively about its recruitment after low staffing was described as an underlying issue.

The plan includes recruiting nurses from as far away as Portugal and encouraging 'dormant' nurses who have fallen out of the profession to return to help the QEH at a time when it is under pressure.

In September the hospital was also told it would be getting £3.9m from the Government to make long-term improvements to its A&E department, which was one of the areas heavily criticised.

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