More A&E crisis days will happen before things get better, Northampton General Hospital chief admits

Dr Sonia Swart
Dr Sonia Swart

More A&E crisis days will happen at Northampton General Hospital before a solution is found for problems caused by massive influxes of patients, the hospital’s chief has said.

Responding to the Care Quality Commission (CQC) report, which rated the hospital as ‘requires improvement’, Northampton General Hospital chief executive Dr Sonia Swart said the trust, NHS Nene and social services were all working on the problem.

But she revealed that on March 3, NGH had 86 fewer beds than needed and implemented a “military style command and control centre” with council and NHS staff called to the site. And she admitted that might happen again before things get better.

She said: “Today the hospital is not in crisis. I think if we don’t turn this round we will have more days like that. We don’t plan on having any but unless we plan things differently, not just us but the whole healthcare system, we will have further days of crisis and that’s waht we want to avoid.”

She added: “The lack of beds on March 3 is perhaps a symptom. It’s perhaps one of the worst days we’ve had. the most important thing was that we resolved that.

“But that was a concerted effort and it shows what can be achieved if you mobilise all your resources to one area, including people from social care and NHS Nene,

“What we need to do is create a ‘new normal’ where this sort of help happens every day.”

Since the inspection, NGH has also had at least three consecutive days where non-urgent operations were cancelled due to A&E pressures. Dr Swart said this was still happening.

Dr Swart said: ”We are cancelling operations. that will continue until we can improve the flow of patients through the hospital. It’s obviously disappointing for our patients and we recognise that.”

Dr Swart said changes either on the way or already made in response to today’s CQC report, including physical changes to A&E to make it more child-friendly and recruiting more nurses - which are now up to 95 per cent of full establishment.

Dr Swart added: “I will emphasise that the inspectors found some very good practice and that is a testament to our hardworking staff.”

Meanwhile Healthwatch Northamptonshire, the county health watchdog, will be surveying people over a two week period at different times of the day and evening to understand more about the pressures on the hospital’s A&E Department.

The results of the survey will be shared widely with NGH and other health and social care decision makers in the county.

Rosie Newbigging, chief executive of Healthwatch Northamptonshire, said: “The CQC inspection report is a call to action – not just for NGH, but also for the wider health and social care system.

“Over the last year, we have heard from many people who have had experiences of NGH. We have heard some very positive experiences and views, but we have also heard from people who described aspects of their care as poor.

“There needs to be much more thorough learning from the patient experience. We have an important role to play in capturing the patient experience and sharing that with the leadership of the trust.

“The hospital’s strapline is ‘best possible care’ and it is clear from today’s report, that NGH has some distance to go in achieving that goal.”