Talks due over health crisis

A HEALTH watchdog has today called for urgent talks with bosses at Ipswich Hospital after faltering emergency procedures have again been highlighted.Hospital chiefs have agreed to meet with members of the hospital trust's Patient and Public Involvement Forum after the patients' watchdog called for an urgent review.

A HEALTH watchdog has today called for urgent talks with bosses at Ipswich Hospital after faltering emergency procedures have again been highlighted.

Hospital chiefs have agreed to meet with members of the hospital trust's Patient and Public Involvement Forum after the patients' watchdog called for an urgent review.

Today The Evening Star can reveal the news of the talks coincided with:

n paramedics again being forced to man a temporary holding area for A&E patients yesterday because A&E could not cope with the rush of patients.

n A pledge by hospital chiefs to end the use of so-called "clock beds" in already full wards except in exceptional circumstances.

n And the leaking of a stinging report into emergency care at Ipswich Hospital.

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The call from the PPI forum coincides with the leaking of a draft report written by the NHS Modernisation Agency which followed a visit to Ipswich Hospital by its Emergency Care Project Team on October 14.

The report praised the efforts and skills of staff but contained a series of damning criticisms of the way the hospital operates.

The report's findings included:

N revelations that "bed capacity is not an issue" but "bed management and patient flows are major problems requiring urgent solutions"

N Failures in the leadership of the trust resulting in a lack of cohesive approaches to addressing problems and the solutions to those problems.

N a rewriting of its four-hour target action plan if the Trust is to meet government targets on patients waiting times by the December deadline

N And calling for an end to the practice of holding patients on ambulance trolleys

Ipswich Hospital today revealed it requested the review by the Modernisation Agency and said the final version of the report, which is yet to be published, had undergone significant alterations.

On the hospital's leadership the draft report said: "The same problem/solution is approached from many angles throughout the organisation, without evidence of leadership, cross boundary communication and clear lines of responsibility."

The report's author, Emergency Services Team associate director Georgie Sullivan, also stressed that the long-awaited opening of an Acute Medicine Unit at the hospital would not be the answer to all its ills.

She wrote: "The myth that the opening of the AMU in mid November will solve bed waits and medical outliers needs to be dispelled."

Ms Rowsell described the leaked report as "very, very draft".

"We're delighted this very senior team of people came," she said.

"What the review does is support the work underway at the hospital.

"The review team came for a few days and they produced a very draft report.

"With all of these things the whole aim is to help us to get better."

Pressures on A&E again overflowed yesterday when East Anglian Ambulance Service staff were forced to open a temporary holding area for A&E patients to free up ambulances waiting to offload patients.

The son of a 68-year-old woman referred to the hospital with a chest infection reported seeing up to 10 ambulances waiting to offload patients at the hospital from about 4.30pm.

"A&E looked like a Greek Hospital. There were people spilling out all over the corridors and everywhere.

"I don't know what they would've done if there was a major accident at that moment.

"They say seeing is believing but I really couldn't believe it."

Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust's Patient and Public Involvement Forum, a body set up to give patients and the public input into their local health system, today revealed it wants assurances from the trust that emergency procedures are being implemented correctly.

"The Ipswich Hospital PPI have met to discuss the latest information received from hospital management with regard to procedures followed in dealing with emergencies," a forum spokeswoman said.

"We have discussed this at length and agree that although these policies appear sound on paper we need to see how they are implemented.

"We have therefore asked for a meeting with management and staff in A&E to see how this works in practice."

In response, the hospital trust announced it would be "delighted" to meet with forum members and would ensure the most "senior and relevant" members of staff were made available.

The PPI forum claimed success in convincing the hospital to cease its use of extra beds in already full wards, dubbed "clock beds" because they are sometimes positioned against walls under clocks.

"We have now been informed this practice is no longer in operation except with prior permission by (chief executive) Chris Dooley," the PPI spokeswoman said.

"We welcome this move by management, which should reassure the members of the general public."

However hospital chiefs could not guarantee the extra beds would not be used in exceptional circumstances.

Ipswich Hospital's head of communications Jan Rowsell said: "On very, very rare occasions we have two options. We can either say 'I'm terribly sorry, we don't have any beds we'll have to send you to another hospital' or on very rare occasions an additional bed is placed in a bay.

"It is far from ideal but it does mean the patient is able to get the treatment they need.

"The chief executive is very clear this must only ever be countenanced when it is absolutely best for the patient's care to do so."

The PPI forum also praised The Evening Star for drawing attention to problems with emergency care at Ipswich Hospital.

"We would like to thank The Evening Star for taking up these problems at the hospital and for raising concerns with the health minister (John Reid). We will await his report and will then make further comments," its spokeswoman said.

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