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Emergency staff at Altnagelvin Hospital are ‘tired and stressed'

Derry's Altnagelvin Hospital. Pic Margaret McLaughlin.
Seamus McKinney

AN unannounced inspection of the Emergency Department at Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry has found it was not adequately staffed to ensure appropriate care at busy times.

The inspection by the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) also found that staff in the department felt “tired, burnt out and stressed” because of low staffing levels.

However, RQIA found that two medical and surgical wards at Altnagelvin displayed “good adherence of best practice” in the delivery of patient care.

RQIA is an independent body,responsible for inspecting and regulating Northern Ireland’s health and social care sector. The organisation’s chief executive, Olive Macleod said staff in all three wards inspected in the unannounced visit in July were found to be caring and committed.

“However, our inspection of the ED (Emergency Department) identified a range of areas that required improvement,” she said.

Inspectors found staff morale was low and most staff reported that they did not feel supported and valued by executive management and there was a delay in response to concerns raised by staff.

In their report, RQIA inspectors said: “We observed staff that were compassionate, showing empathy to patients and positive interactions were noted (in the ED). Staff were courteous to patients and relatives, providing clear, easily understood information.”

Ms Macleod said that while leadership was good in the ED, staffing levels were concerning.

“There were delays in recruitment and bank or agency staff could not always be secured.

“Staff told us they were feeling tired, ‘burnt out’ and stressed as a result of low staffing levels. RQIA’s inspectors considered that at busy times, the Emergency Department was not adequately staff to ensure appropriate patient care.”

A spokesman for the Western Health and Social Care Trust welcomed the report and accepted the recommendations made in it.

He said: “Whilst the Trust are already aware of many of the issues raised, we acknowledge the feedback within the report and are pleased to see the independent leadership recognition of our teams in the ED and at ward level.

“In May 2016, the Trust identified via our own internal reviews that the Altnagelvin ED was under increasing pressure. Between November 2015 and September 2016, an additional 6,613 people attended Altnagelvin’s ED, an increase of 13 percent compared to the same period the previous year.”

The spokesman said the Emergency Department also had to deal with a 21 percent increase in GP referrals in the same period compared to the previous year.

Director of acute hospitals at the Trust, Geraldine McKay said 14 new staff for the Emergency Department had been recruited in May, 12 of whom are already in place.

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