In an ‘unprecedented’ move, the West Midlands Ambulance Service was forced to call in a medical incident officer in order to cope with delays in treatment, the BBC has reported.
The medical incident officer, who is usually deployed to major disasters, was called into Worcestershire Royal Hospital on Friday 10 April 2015 as staff were forced to treat patients in the corridor.
While in attendance, the doctor cared for eight patients, including a patient who had been left for four hours following a seizure, another with a suspected blood clot who had been left in the hands of ambulance staff and someone who had been waiting five hours with heart-related chest pain.
It is reported that this was the first time the medical incident officer has been deployed to a hospital in the West Midlands. A spokeswoman for the Royal College of Emergency Medicine commented that she was not aware of it having happened elsewhere.
A West Midlands Ambulance Service spokesman called the decision to send the doctor ‘unprecedented’ and ‘not taken lightly’.
The last time a medical incident officer was called out was when a firework warehouse exploded in Stafford in October 2014.
The Care Quality Commission said it was aware that West Midlands Ambulance service took the action at the weekend and was monitoring the situation. It has already carried out an inspection of the emergency department and said it would report its conclusions soon.
The situation at Worcestershire Royal Hospital is not uncommon. Emergency departments are finding that they are increasingly overwhelmed. A paramedic, Stuart Gardner, blew the whistle on overcrowding in Worcester’s corridors in January. In February five emergency specialists left the trust claiming ‘massive overcrowding’ was a disgrace and caused ‘serious harm’ to many patients.
On 23 March the BBC reported two cardiac arrests in the corridor in one week and 28 patients waiting to access the emergency department. The following day the Care Quality Commission undertook an unannounced inspection. A day later a risk summit took place involving all health parties in the county. All routine surgery was cancelled ahead of the Easter holiday to free up beds and ensure the smooth running of A&E.
Rebecca Morgan, an associate in Penningtons Manches’ clinical negligence team, said: “Unfortunately, the situation experienced by Worcestershire Royal Hospital is not uncommon and is concerning. We are often contacted by patients who have suffered as a result of delays in receiving their treatment, which can lead to disastrous consequences.”