North Bristol NHS Trust's winter preparedness criticised by health watchdog

Southmead Hospital
Image caption Southmead's end of life care was rated "outstanding" by inspectors

A Bristol hospital trust did not take action early enough to anticipate increasing demand over the winter months, a health watchdog has said.

A Care Quality Commission (CQC) report said Southmead Hospital bosses were aware of the challenges, but plans had not been fully tested or signed off.

The hospital was also criticised for being too slow to discharge patients.

The NHS trust said it was launching a staff development programme to "address many of the issues raised".

The CQC report followed an unannounced inspection in November of five services - urgent and emergency care, medical care, surgery, end-of-life care and outpatients.

North Bristol NHS Trust's overall rating remains at "requires improvement", as does safety, effectiveness, leadership and responsiveness to people's needs. Caring remains "good".

Amanda Stanford, deputy chief inspector of hospitals, said while it found some excellent progress in the emergency department, "too many patients are still waiting for beds to become available, or to be discharged when they no longer need to be in hospital."

She added: "The inspectors found that the trust had not taken sufficient action early enough to anticipate increasing demand over the winter months.

"Although managers were aware of the challenges caused by extra operational pressures the plans were not fully tested or signed off at the time of the inspection.

'Difficult winter'

"In end-of-life care our rating of outstanding for caring is recognition of the trust's frontline staff who we found to be caring and conscientious at all times."

Andrea Young, North Bristol NHS Trust chief executive, said it had been a "difficult winter" with staff "under intense pressure" due to the number of patients coming through the doors.

"This has impacted on the way we would normally deliver care, meaning that at times we have had to care for some patients in non-ward areas," she said.

"We know this is not ideal and means some people are not receiving the high levels of care that we strive to provide at all times."

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