NHS crisis laid bare as patients treated in chairs at A&E operating at 230% of capacity

Healthcare watchdogs have uncovered several failings at a Scottish hospital operating at 230 per cent capacity including “tearful staff”, patients not being “well cared for”, and a patient left waiting for 25 hours.

A report from Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS), following an unannounced visit to Forth Valley Royal Hospital also details how patients were being treated in chairs with IV drips that had “run dry”.

Staff at the hospital were seen to be “tearful” and “appeared worried about not being able to provide appropriate safe care and dignity for patients due to overcrowding”.

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Opposition politicians said Forth Valley was an example of the crisis in the NHS across the country, while the Scottish Government, which has now brought the hospital under direct control, said it expected urgent improvements.

Inspectors raised further concerns over practices at Forth Valley Royal Hospital in an unannounced inspection in September

HIS staff had already made two visits to Forth Valley Royal Hospital in April, before making an unannounced follow-up inspection in September, which they said “raised further serious concerns about the safety and quality of care at Forth Valley Royal Hospital”.

The report into care at the hospital explains how the emergency department was under “extreme pressure” with “occupancy within the emergency department reaching 230 percent at points throughout the day”.

It reads: “This meant an increase of 130 percent more patients in the department than it was designed to accommodate.

“The longest wait time for patients awaiting transfer to ward areas was 25 hours.”

In the emergency department and other areas, the inspectors found “many patients were being cared for in chaired areas in corridors and within the departments”.

The report highlighted how patients being treated in chairs were not always “easily visible to staff”, with inspectors revealing: “In these areas we observed patients with intravenous infusions that had run dry.

Scottish Conservative Shadow Health Secretary, Dr Sandesh Gulhane MSP, said:

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“Patients’ lives are being put at risk and while the hospital is now under the control of the Scottish Government, this report shows that urgent action should have been taken far sooner.”

Scottish Labour health spokesperson Jackie Baillie said: "This is yet more damning evidence of the crisis in NHS Forth Valley and across the country.

“We cannot have patients being left overnight on chairs due to a lack of beds. Problems previously identified have been ignored and the position is getting worse.

“Staff are working heroically at all hours but they are being failed by a government that hasn’t provided for them and a Health Secretary who doesn’t seem to care.

“Staff are at breaking point and patient’s lives are being risked.

“We cannot go on like this. It’s time that Humza Yousaf was sacked and replaced by a minister who is prepared to tackle this crisis.”

Cathie Cowan, the chief executive of NHS Forth Valley, said: “I would like to apologise to those patients whose care and treatment fell below the high standards we aim to provide.

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“The report highlights a number of serious issues and immediate action was taken following the visit to quickly respond to the concerns raised by the inspectors.

“We recognise that there is still more work to do, and we are committed to fully addressing all of the report recommendations and working with the Assurance Board set up by the Scottish Government to drive forward the changes and improvements required across the organisation.

“Local staff continue to deliver high standards of clinical care and treatment in very challenging circumstances, and I want to thank them for their hard work and commitment.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The concerns raised by HIS and escalated to the Scottish Government are one of the factors that has led to NHS Forth Valley’s escalation to Level 4.

“We have established an Assurance Board bringing direct government oversight and monitoring in response to NHS Forth Valley’s escalation.

“We will scrutinise NHS Forth Valley’s Improvement Plan and hold the leadership to account for the effective delivery of improvement actions. We expect urgent improvements to be made in the areas of concern HIS have highlighted in their report.”

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