Welsh hospitals must tackle safety concerns, warns watchdog

Hospital A&E Image copyright Thinkstock

Welsh hospitals need to work harder to ensure they are delivering safe and effective care, a watchdog has warned.

Inspectors said there were still too many concerns over infection control and managing medicines.

However, the Health Inspectorate Wales annual report also praised strong hospital leadership.

The inspectors also said patients' experience in hospital was overwhelmingly positive.

"Whilst many patients have a positive experience of NHS hospital care, more work is needed to address a number of longstanding issues that undermine the delivery of safe effective care," said the inspectorate's chief executive, Dr Kate Chamberlain.

The body is the independent inspector and regulator for all health care in Wales.

The Welsh Government has acknowledged there is "still room for improvement" and it expects health boards "to take quick and robust action".

During 2016-17, inspectors visited 27 wards at 20 different hospitals in Wales, carrying out 16 full hospital inspections across the seven Welsh health boards.

It found several areas required "immediate improvement", including:

  • The absence of patient identification wristbands, which could have led to medication or treatment errors
  • Improvement to aspects of medicine management
  • Monitoring and treatment of patients on emergency department corridors
  • Better compliance with mental capacity and denial of liberty laws to protect patients' rights.

The report highlighted issues where some medicine storage rooms and medical fridges were unlocked and "isolated incidents" where controlled drug management needed to be reviewed.

It also recommended that all health boards ensure staff "adhere to infection prevention and control" and adopt the best clinical practice.

Image copyright Thinkstock
Image caption Patients being treated on trolleys in corridors was highlighted for improvement

Inspectors said staff knowledge on dealing with those patients who lacked the mental capacity to understand why they were in hospital was "variable".

"This meant that there may have been times during the delivery of patient care, that individuals' human rights were not upheld," stated the report.

It also raised concerns about the treatment of patients on trolleys on A&E corridors and delays some patients experienced in being discharged - often due to a lack of social care outside of hospital.

But the report also had praise for the services being delivered at a time of "very real challenges", including in recruiting and retaining staff.

"Almost without exception, we found that patients' and relatives' experience of healthcare during our inspections was positive; people told us that they were treated with kindness, courtesy and politeness," stated the inspectors.

The Welsh Government said: "We welcome HIW's report, which shows our hardworking NHS staff are delivering safe and effective care to patients and their families.

"However, there is still room for improvement, and we expect NHS organisations to take quick and robust action to address HIW's findings."

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