Wales politics

University Hospital of Wales: Officials missed 'gravity' of assessment waits

UHW
Image caption People were waiting in an assessment unit linked to the emergency department for up tot 20 hours.

Cardiff and Vale health board had not seen the gravity of problems at the University Hospital of Wales' assessment unit, its chief executive has said.

A damning inspectors report found patients waiting to be assessed in chairs for up to 20 hours.

Len Richards said it was disappointing inspectors discovered the issues before the health board did.

AMs expressed concern about the report at health committee on Wednesday.

The Healthcare Inspectorate Wales (HIW) report on emergency care ordered managers at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff to make changes after an unannounced visit.

It found patients in the assessment unit, which is linked to the emergency department, waiting in chairs within a lounge for "unacceptable and prolonged" periods of time, some without proper food or drink.

Image caption Len Richards said the organisation was disappointed HIW had discovered the problems before it did

Mr Richards told the assembly's health committee said the organisation was disappointed that HIW "found this and we didn't".

Pressed further, he said: "My sense of this is that we didn't see the gravity of the situation."

However, he said the board "knew there were patients waiting a long time in there. We knew that there were patients in there for longer than 12 hours."

'Acute'

He said the HIW report had "brought an acute, sort of, view of the situation to our attention".

Helen Mary Jones, Plaid Cymru's health spokeswoman, said: "So you knew it was happening and you didn't realise it wasn't alright?"

"No, I'm not saying that," Mr Richards replied. "And please don't put words into my mouth."

"What I'm saying is that hospitals get congested. We do our best to manage them. In this situation we haven't managed them as well as we should have done."

Image caption Steve Curry said the report came in the context of an estate that was 50 years old

Chief operating officer Steve Curry said the report was "extremely concerning" to them - and said the report came in the context of an unscheduled care system that is not stable and in an estate that is 50 years old.

He said the environment is not "what we would choose to have to deliver modern health care" - he said there were plans to deal with that in the future.

Angela Burns, the Conservative health spokeswoman, said the report was "absolutely damning".

"Why did you need HIW to tell you this," she said.

"Does nobody walk the floors to look at this stuff?" Mr Richards said safety walk-arounds do take place.

The wide-ranging meeting opened with Labour's David Rees saying it was "inappropriate" that the board's chairwoman Maria Battle or vice-chairman Charles Janczewski - who were appointed by ministers - were not in attendance.

Senior officials attended instead. Mr Richards said he had decided who would take part and apologised.

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