Hereford & Worcester

Alexandra Hospital 'virtual ward to meet A&E targets'

Alexandra Hospital Redditch Image copyright Google
Image caption The hospital trust said the virtual ward was 'not to present the trust in a better position than it was'

A whistleblower has accused a hospital of inventing a "virtual ward" for patients to avoid breaching the minimum four-hour waiting target in A&E.

Patients stayed in A&E at Redditch's Alexandra Hospital while records said they were admitted to a non-existent ward, the whistleblower said.

Hospital bosses rejected this and said the ward was adjacent to A&E.

There was "no evidence of any attempt to defraud or 'game the system'" the trust told the Health Service Journal.

The ward at the heart of the allegations was called the EDU (Emergency Department Unit) and was nicknamed a "breach avoidance unit", according to a former A&E worker.

An investigation by Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust found missed targets may have been under-reported.

The hospital however rejected the idea the ward did not exist. It said it may have been called "virtual" among staff because patients' details were entered onto a computer there, but that was a "language issue rather than a policy initiative".

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The ex-staff member further alleged staff felt pressured by managers to "falsify records for the four-hour target", and nurses did not want managers "harassing" them over four-hour breaches.

A&E waiting times - December

Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust

63%

Seen within target of four hours

  • 84 Waited more than 12 hours

  • 86.2% National average for number of patients seen in four hours

  • 95% Target for the number of patients to be seen within that time

Science Photo Library

Computer records of some patients' admissions did not match times they were moved according to paper records, the investigation report said.

Caragh Merrick, chairman of the hospital trust, said there were "system and administration errors and not actions to present the trust in a better position than it was".

The investigation revealed "poor process and recording" but nothing suggested a virtual EDU and there was "no evidence of manipulation of data".

The trust confirmed "the alleged practices were not happening today".

New leaders being recruited would "see prompt investigations where concerns were raised with clear outcomes and actions and people being held accountable where necessary", the trust said.

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