An NHS hospital which has faced repeated criticism by regulators for poor standards of care has been fined £4,000 for failing to assess A&E patients quickly enough.
The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals Trust has been fined by the Care Quality Commission after patients were not triaged within 15 mimutes of arrival in A&E – in breach of conditions set by the regulator last year and a national target.
The care of emergency patients at the hospital trust, which is also facing an inquiry into poor maternity care, has been a long running concern for the watchdog which has rated the trust inadequate and put it in special measures in 2018.
Earlier this year the CQC’s chief inspector of hospitals, Professor Ted Baker, wrote to NHS England warning of a “worsening picture" at the Midlands hospital and demanding action be taken.
Since then the chair of the trust Ben Reid has stepped down and University Hospitals Birmingham has agreed to enter into an ‘improvement alliance’ with it.
The CQC said it had issued the fixed penalty notice to the trust because it failed to comply with national clinical guidance that all children and adults must be assessed within 15 minutes of arrival.
It also failed to implement a system that ensured all children who left the emergency department without being seen were followed up.
After inspections in April 2019 and November 29 the CQC imposed seven conditions on the hospital over emergency care.
The regulator said it was now clear the trust had not stuck to the conditions and had breached them both at Royal Shrewsbury Hospital and Princess Royal Hospital.
Professor Baker said: "The trust has not responded satisfactorily to previous enforcement action regarding how quickly patients are assessed upon entering the urgent and emergency department.
“We have issued a penalty notice due to the severity of the situation and to ensure the necessary, urgent improvements are made. It is essential that patients are seen in a timely way when they arrive at an emergency department; failure to do so could result in deteriorating health, harm, or even death, which is why national guidelines exist and must be followed.
“We will continue to carefully monitor the trust to determine whether this drives the required change and will take further action if there is no progress.”
Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust is facing a police investigation over dozens of baby deaths on its wards. It is also under investigation by an NHS inquiry looking at almost 1,900 complaints from families.
The Independent revealed last year how the repeated failure to learn from mistakes in the trust’s maternity department had caused repeated deaths with children suffering brain damage after being starved of oxygen at birth.
A spokesperson for the trust said: “We have made important changes to our processes in our emergency departments and these, along with a successful recruitment drive, has seen our average triage time reduce over the past few weeks to nine minutes at the Princess Royal Hospital in Telford and 13 minutes at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital.
"In recent months we have successfully recruited 14 registered children’s nurses and a paediatric emergency medicine consultant to work in our emergency departments.
"We have also increased the number of staff nurses on duty to ensure that an adult and a registered children's nurse are available at all times to greet our patients and complete a timely initial assessment. We are committed to providing the best possible care to all of our patients, their families and carers.”
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