Hospital discharge delays are criticised

Ambulances outside Wigan Infirmary Accident and Emergency department
Ambulances outside Wigan Infirmary Accident and Emergency department

HOSPITAL bosses and ambulance services need to do more to combat delays getting patients out of hospital, volunteer monitors say.

Healthwatch Wigan carried out a fortnight-long enter and view at Wigan Infirmary to assess how well front-line services were coping during the busiest winter months.

There are continuing problems with patient transport services causing delays in discharge

Pauline Jones - director of nursing

The organisation’s report found problems discharging patients efficiently, with prescriptions not being written up quickly enough and not enough ambulances being available two of the main reasons for the delays.

However, Healthwatch Wigan did say discharges were getting quicker and responsibility for patient transport service lay with an outside organisation, but encouraged Trust bosses to engage in dialogue to make the service more flexible.

The report also said staff should always introduce themselves and better communication was needed around how long patients and families would have to wait for X-rays and blood test results.

The enter and view volunteers also raised concerns about lack of privacy, saying medical conversations could be overheard outside the cubicles with the curtain closed.

Healthwatch Wigan also asked Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh (WWL) NHS Foundation Trust to do a risk assessment on the car park for staff on late shifts and consider bringing police back into A&E at weekends.

The report also said the enter and view volunteers were impressed by the high level of staff morale and praised the considerable recent improvements at Wigan Infirmary.

Healthwatch Wigan now hopes better communication with partner organisations can solve discharge problems outside the hospital, such as shortages of suitable accommodation for patients in the community and a shortage of social service provision.

The vast majority of patients and their families who spoke to the Healthwatch Wigan team also praised the quality of care given, although having to wait without being given a reason was a source of frustration.

Director of nursing Pauline Jones hailed the improvements in working conditions and treatment of staff over the past five years and said involvement with the voluntary sector was helping improve the experience for patients.

She cited an initiative with The Brick which sees a volunteer attend A&E to help support homeless people who end up in hospital when they are discharged and work with The Red Cross making sure patients have food at home when they leave hospital.

Ms Jones said she still hoped to further improve the way patients with challenging behaviour were treated and train more nurses to have two specialities.

Head of resilience Alison Whitehead said staffing levels and transport were currently being reviewed.

She said: “There are continuing problems with patient transport services causing delays in discharge.”