That’s the only possible view of the leadership of Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals Trust following the farce of a Board meeting yesterday.
In the midst of overwhelming crisis, the Board had a brilliant plan: ‘Let’s ignore it’. The periodic injections of reality came from the many members of the public present, and from the one honourable Non-Executive Director who did a decent and principled job of challenging the positive spin.
The horrors of unsafe care exposed by hospital inspectors were touched on (momentarily) by Chief Executive Simon Wright. The Trust “will work closely with the CQC and ensure that we can evidence the learning and evidence those things where there may have been confusion”. Not a mention there of staff telling inspectors of unsafe and degrading care; of patients treated like ‘animals’ and ‘cattle’; of inspectors repeatedly going to the aid of patients because there weren’t enough staff. Members of the public expressed horror that staff have to speak to hospital inspectors about unsafe care because they don’t trust internal reporting mechanisms. There’s no evidence the Trust Board is too bothered about this.
In Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin Defend Our NHS, we welcome today’s intervention of the Care Quality Commission (CQC), and the issuing of an enforcement notice. The observations of hospital inspectors – leaked and widely publicised last week – were genuinely shocking.
It is wholly unacceptable that patients in our hospitals have been ‘boarded’ in inappropriate areas, because of a lack of beds – on corridors, in areas without access to call bells or oxygen, or on wards so crowded with extra beds that a resuscitation trolley could not be pushed through.
It is disgusting that hospital inspectors had to go to the aid of patients multiple times because of staff shortages. It is close to unbelievable that those patients included a diabetic patient left without food or fluid for 15 hours; close to unbelievable, too, that a high dependency area was left completely unstaffed for 15 minutes.
We applaud the courage of staff who approached hospital inspectors, and told them of the problems. It was staff who blew the whistle here. A letter from the CQC to hospital trust SaTH reported: “Staff across all areas and grades raised concerns with us about this practice (‘boarding’) and told us they felt it was unsafe, demeaning, undignified, and disgusting. Two staff members told us they felt patients who were boarded were treated like ‘animals’ and ‘cattle’.”
Something has gone very badly wrong at our local hospitals. Julia Evans is Secretary of Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin Defend Our NHS, and is a former A&E Nurse at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital. She says, “NHS cuts lead to shockingly bad care – and that is the fundamental lesson that must now be learned from the crisis at Princess Royal and the Royal Shrewsbury Hospitals”.
The key questions are around what happens next. We call for the following: