Staff at an Harlow hospital have told a health watchdog they are “exhausted” as inspectors had to intervene to ensure two "deteriorating" patients received care in an emergency unit.

The Care Quality Commission visited the Princess Alexandra Hospital between July and September after concerns were raised.

The hospital has been told the quality of its emergency department, maternity and medical services needs to improve in a report released today (November 17).

The trust has been rated as "requires improvement" overall and the hospital's emergency department rated "inadequate".

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The report said inspectors had to "intervene" during their visit after seeing two "deteriorating" patients waiting in a corridor who were brought to the emergency department by ambulance.

One patient had a bleeding head injury after a fall and was on blood thinners, and another was taken to hospital after being found collapsed and unresponsive.

The second patient waited two hours and 26 minutes to be seen, according to the report. 

They were both moved immediately after inspectors raised concerns.

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Philippa Styles, head of hospital inspection, said hospitals must "do all they can to mitigate risk".

She said: "Staff told us they were exhausted, were not getting breaks, had been in tears while on duty and did not feel they were listened to by senior staff."

"Despite these challenges, staff should be commended for how kind and caring we saw they were with all their patients."

Lance McCarthy, chief executive at The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust recognised the "unprecedented" demand and the "pressures" of the ongoing Covid pandemic and said she is "proud" of the NHS team.

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She added: “I am pleased our CQC colleagues fully recognised the focus of all of our people on our patients’ needs and that they felt respected, supported and valued by each other; and that this is reflected in the inspectors’ rating Caring as Good. 

“We know that we need to continue to improve all our services and that we are on an ongoing journey of improvement and have the commitment of our people to make it better. I am confident that we have the fantastic people we need to do this. 

“Our urgent and emergency; medicine and maternity teams continue to strive to provide excellent care for patients. All three teams have already put in place improvements following the inspection in addition to managing the significant increase in demand from our local population for those services."

The trust has been told it must make a number of improvements, including making sure there is enough staff, completing observations within 15 minutes of arrival at the emergency department, and implementing a robust maternity triage system.

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