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North Essex trust declares 'major incident' over demand


Patients have been told to stay away from a hospital’s A&E department unless they have a serious or life-threatening condition.

The alert was issued to people across north-east Essex after Colchester General Hospital declared a “major incident”.

“It is vital that emergency services are free to help people with the greatest need”

Shane Gordon

This was on the back of a surprise inspection by the Care Quality Commission on 12 November, when the health regulator raised “safeguarding concerns”.

It also found that staff were struggling to cope with “unprecedented demand”.

North East Essex CCG

Shane Gordon

Dr Shane Gordon, the chief clinical officer of the North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “A&E should only be used for critical or life-threatening situations requiring medical attention, such as loss of consciousness, heavy blood loss, suspected broken bones, persistent chest pain, difficulty breathing, overdoses, ingestion or poisoning.

“It is vital that emergency services are free to help people with the greatest need. Patients with minor injuries which do not require a visit to A&E (such as cuts, wounds, sprains, strains and minor burns) can also be treated at walk-in medical centres or minor injury units across north-east Essex,” he said.

“This will significantly help to relieve pressure on the hospital’s A&E teams and reduce waiting times for all patients,” he added.

The Colchester Hospital University Foundation Trust said the major incident is likely to last a week. The trust’s interim chief executive, Dr Lucy Moore, described it as “a difficult time for the trust”.

Colchester Hospital

Colchester Hospital

In July the CQC gave the hospital an overall rating of “requires improvement”.

Peter Wilson, acting chair of the trust, told The Guardian it was facing “unprecedented demand” on its services.

Mr Wilson said they were disappointed that the CQC felt the situation at the hospital had not improved, and confirmed it had declared a major incident to review various aspects of service at the hospital.

The CQC said it will publish its latest report on the hospital “in due course”, adding that it will carry out further inspections at the trust.

At a board of directors meeting last month, a report by the hospital’s deputy director of nursing showed recruitment drives were planned for the  next few months.

An additional 60 health care assistants are due to be employed  by the beginning of December, while 30 registered nurses are expected to join the trust by March 2015 following interviews with nurses from the Philippines.

Colchester Hospital

Bob Russell

Sir Bob Russell, the Liberal Democrat MP for Colchester, told the BBC: “We’ve had a year, 18 months of problems at Colchester General Hospital, the former chief executive, chairman and numerous members of the board have all gone, there’s a new team in there and I’m hoping that they will turn it around.

“There’s no criticism here by the way of the front-line medical staff and support staff, the criticism I have is the management historically and I’m just hoping the new management team are going to sort it out, but clearly this is very worrying,” he said.




Readers' comments (4)

  • Trusts will continue to fail the A&E waiting time targets until patients are able to get a 'same day appointment' 24/7 with their GP. The last time I wanted to see my GP, I was given a 2 week appointment! As ever with this government and previous, the infrastructures are not there to support this. The NHS needs an urgent, sustained injection of cash - but instead, it has to save up to £20 billion by 2015, the biggest efficiency challenge it has faced. The largest financial bill for Trusts are its staff wages - so most have 'reconfigured services', slashed bed capacity and sacked nurses/ANC staff to make savings and the government wonders why the NHS is on its knees!

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  • the tories are in charge of the NHS what do you expect!!

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  • gp services are under strain, contrary to what hunt and the media think, we are not lazy, there is a lack of gps, nurses and the idea that surgeries being open 24/7 is a fantasy. it would help if gp surgeries weren't constantly blamed for increased A and E attendences, nothibgf is everyt addressed about demand of the public and that people need to take some responsibility for treating their own cold, minor cuts and the like.

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  • michael stone

    Anonymous | 17-Nov-2014 4:06 pm

    'The last time I wanted to see my GP, I was given a 2 week appointment!'

    I was listening to a GP on the radio a day or so ago, and he said that until the 'rules' forced him to introduce an appointments system, he had for years very successfully operated a 'walk-in' system: patients just turned up at the surgery, and he said would usually be seen in about 20 minutes.

    He made two interesting points - one, is that if patients know they can just turn up, they only tend to go to the GP once they are actually ill (with an appointment system, you might book because you think you are 'getting ill').

    The second one, is more philosophical: how can a patient know in advance (as a booking system implies is necessary) that he/she will be ill, in a few days time ?

    This GP said that the payment system for GPs, effectively forces them to use a booking of appointments system (which cannot be easily combined with 'just walk in').

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