St Albans hospital trust still falling below A&E and planned operations targets

St Albans Hospital

St Albans Hospital - Credit: pic supplied

The NHS trust responsible for St Albans City Hospital has still not managed to meet monthly targets for Accident and Emergency admissions and planned operations.

West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust (WHHT), which manages St Albans City, Hemel Hempstead, and Watford hospitals, has not hit the target for A&E since May 2015.

In December, WHHT treated or admitted 77.4 per cent of patients to Watford A&E, whereas the national target is 95 per cent and the average for trusts in England is 85 per cent.

88.3 per cent of patients in WHHT’s care waited less than 18 weeks for planned operations or care, whereas the national target is 92 per cent and England’s average is 89.5 per cent.

The trust last met the planned operations and care target in November 2015.

However, it beat the target for cancer care, with 87.8 per cent of patients beginning treatment within 62 days of urgent GP referral.

The national target is 85 per cent, and the average for England is 82.5 per cent.

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Healthwatch Hertfordshire’s Paul Regan said: “When talking about WHHT’s A&E results, it’s vital to look at national trends.

“In December three out of 133 trusts managed to hit their A&E targets. This is not an issue unique to West Herts, or one that has an easy or obvious solution.

“This increase in demand has also led to a knock-on effect on planned care as resources continue to be stretched.

“Hospital results should be viewed as a whole. Though no one should have to wait longer than expected for an operation the recent CQC inspection results show WHHT are making year-on-year improvements.

“Healthwatch Hertfordshire, along with other groups and agencies, has worked with the trust and it’s wonderful to see that this month they have been taken out of ‘special measures’.”

The CQC inspection found WHHT, which manages hospitals in St Albans, Watford, and Hemel Hempstead, still required improvement, but the surgery team at St Albans was rated ‘good’ across all five criteria: safety, leadership, effectiveness, caring, and responsiveness.

A WHHT spokesperson said: “Winter is always a challenge for hospitals and this year is no different. If anything, it’s even busier. We had the highest number of attendances on record for the month of December with 8,234 people arriving at Watford General Hospital’s A&E department.

“Accidents and illness occur on any day of the calendar year, including bank holidays when other parts of the health service are closed or are running with reduced staff, such as Christmas and Boxing Day.

“Despite the emergency department being exceptionally busy, we continue to get some very heart-warming praise in the form or letters and on social media.

“We are implementing a range of measures to help us improve waiting times for patients. Additional consultants and a nurse consultant have been appointed.

“There has also been a recent expansion into the space previously used by physiotherapy, providing extra assessment space.

“Also, a new way of working has been adopted which means that patients are assessed and treated sooner and that their pain relief and hydration are monitored more closely. Together, these measures are helping to make being treated in our emergency department a much more positive experience.

“We have submitted a business case for funding to create a new and enlarged emergency department and to also redevelop the site at St Albans and increase the activity levels there, particularly surgery.”

WHHT was compared against England’s 135 trusts.