Services axed: Chase Farm Hospital lost its accident and emergency unit
Hospital managers were unprepared for an influx of almost 40,000 more patients after a neighbouring accident and emergency department was axed, a report reveals today.
Nurses at North Middlesex hospital, in Edmonton, told inspectors that their workload “increased significantly” after the closure of Chase Farm’s casualty unit last December because of a shortage of recruits.
Dead bodies had to be stored in temporary fridges after a 31 per cent rise in the mortuary’s workload, with the facility “full to capacity” at times.Despite the “underestimate of the resources” needed to maintain standards of care, the Care Quality Commission said staff at North Middlesex had “fully embraced” the increased workload. In a generally positive report, the hospital was rated as “requires improvement”.
Professor Sir Mike Richards, the commission’s chief inspector of hospitals, said: “When we inspected North Middlesex University Hospital we saw that demand for services had increased, due largely to the closure of A&E at Chase Farm Hospital.
“Staff were working hard to meet this increased demand, but more needed to be done by the trust to make sure that good quality care was maintained.”
The report said the infrastructure at North Middlesex had been “stretched” and managers were “firefighting” rather than planning for the future. A total of 189,000 patients are expected to use its A&E this year, up from 150,000 last year.
Despite praising mortuary attendants for their compassionate approach, the report said: “An example of this [increased workload] was the temporary fridge in the mortuary. While increases in A&E, wards and maternity services had been recognised, the need for care at the end of a patient’s life was not adequately catered for.
“We saw data that showed there had been times when the mortuary was close to being unable to house any more people.”
The axing of services at Chase Farm followed one of the longest battles in recent NHS history that ended with campaigners defeated at the High Court last November.
Patients who would have used Chase Farm now rely on North Middlesex and Barnet General.
Sue Tarr, Operational Manager at the RCN, said: “Today’s report reinforces concerns our members have raised about staffing levels at North Middlesex and we know that the trust are committed to taking action.
“North Middlesex has faced a similar problem to many London employers which is a lack of available, suitably qualified nursing staff.”
North Middlesex University Hospital chief executive Julie Lowe said: “We welcome the inspection team’s findings that we are close to achieving the rating of ‘good’.
“We have been through a period of massive change, with 450 new members of staff, the building of a new maternity unit and the refurbishment of six acute medical wards, all within six months of the new style CQC inspection. Our caring staff have worked tirelessly to provide great care for local people and to manage the enormous changes.
“We continue to provide safe, high quality services for local people that meet all national and London NHS quality standards and we are pleased that the CQC acknowledges this.”
Published: 21 August 2014
Updated: 12:05, 21 August 2014