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Emergency patients facing up to nine hour waits for beds at Medway Maritime Hospital in Gillingham

Patients arriving at a hospital's emergency department are still experiencing delays in being admitted, with some waiting up to nine hours before being given a bed.

An inspection was carried on the Medway Maritime Hospital's emergency department just before Christmas, with a subsequent report raising concerns about long delays in patients being handed over from ambulances.

An inspection was carried out at Medway Maritime Hospital's emergency department just before Christmas. Picture: Steve Crispe
An inspection was carried out at Medway Maritime Hospital's emergency department just before Christmas. Picture: Steve Crispe

The hospital in Gillingham is awaiting further reports from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) after infection prevention and control and leadership were scrutinised by inspectors and NHS England in April and May last year.

Addressing the visit in December - which was criticised for its timing by MP Kelly Tolhurst - Dr David Sulch, the hospital's chief medical officer, said: "It's probably fair to say flow has been one of our major challenges at Medway, certainly in my time at the trust, and we have put a lot of effort and expense into tackling this since the Best Flow programme was introduced in early 2019."

Dr Sulch said although the pressures of the second wave "exacerbated" those issues, he did not take this as an excuse, adding: "I think we also have to accept that the care we were providing at the time was not of an appropriate standard."

He explained to councillors during a meeting of Medway Council's health and adult social care overview and scrutiny committee on Tuesday, June 15, how although there had been sustained improvement in the average wait time for patients waiting in ambulances and in the hospital's emergency department, since Easter, the hospital had since seen a "significant increase" in non-Covid cases, with many of those being late admissions for conditions.

He told councillors 450 patients in the emergency department were recorded on Monday, June 14.

The hospital had since a 'significant increase' in non-Covid cases, since Easter. Stock picture
The hospital had since a 'significant increase' in non-Covid cases, since Easter. Stock picture

He said: "Although we have seen improvements in some of the other metrics we look at, for example, the length of time it takes a patient to get from a decision being made that they need admission to get into a bed, these are still not at the level we would be pleased with."

Dr Sulch explained how the average wait time between a decision to admit and someone getting a bed, was currently more than three hours, with those attending the emergency department seeing an average total wait of eight or nine hours before they are given a bed.

He said: "We are supposed to treat and admit or discharge patients within four hours of arrival at the trust; if they're waiting three hours for the point of a decision to admit, until a bed becomes available for them, they're not receiving the standard of care that we would aspire to."

He went on to explain how although some patients who are deemed dischargable are seen and sent off within two hours, he thought there was a "slowness" in assessments and investigations in the emergency department for people who require further assistance with the conditions they are arriving at the hospital with.

Dr Sulch added since their new interim chief executive Dr George Findlay joined the trust in May, he had committed the team to trying to vastly improve the numbers.

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