A behind-the-scenes look in Queen’s Hospital at a time of unprecedented demand

Queen’s Hospital A&E.
Emergency Dept Matron, Jack Stevens.

Queens Hospital A&E. Emergency Dept Matron, Jack Stevens. - Credit: Archant

Last week, the Recorder received a behind-the-scenes tour of the borough’s A&E department in Queen’s Hospital.

Queen’s Hospital A&E.

Queens Hospital A&E. - Credit: Archant

For several hours on Thursday, a reporter was on hand at the hospital in Rom Valley Way, Romford, run by Barking Havering and Redbridge University Hospital Trust (BHRUT).

The latest verified statistics from NHS England show BHRUT’s A&E departments performing above average across the UK in November, reportedly seeing 88.9 per cent of patients within four hours.

However, early January saw the busiest period in the NHS’s history nationally, and many Redbridge residents were concerned to hear claims of crowded corridors and alleged lengthy waits at the Romford hospital.

Jack Stevens is the matron at the A&E at Queen’s, and he believes people have the wrong perceptions about the trust’s emergency departments.

In a bustling corridor just outside the A&E proper, he told the Recorder: “I hate the word busy when it comes to emergency departments, because by definition we should be busy, if we’re not busy we’re doing something wrong.

“The problem is more about acuity, which is the level of attention people need upon being admitted, than it is about bed-blocking or anything like that.

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“A lot has been made about how busy the NHS has been this month, and the truth is there are just more sick people than ever before.”

With unprecedented demand for its services, much has also been made of plans to close one of the trust’s emergency departments at King George Hospital in Goodmayes.

Despite the news that plans to close the department overnight later this year has been abandoned, the reconfiguration – which would see the A&E turned into an urgent care unit – is still planned for 2019.

As someone with more perspective on the situation than most, Jack is not overly concerned about the planned reconfiguration.

“I can understand the frustration from residents that think we’re just stopping services at King George, but we’re just trying to make the process more efficient.

“It’s a matter of how we can control flow, so if we can make it so that more people with a less serious condition are heading to pharmacies or seen more quickly by their GP then that’s a good way to make our emergency departments easier to operate.”

The process, Jack explained is part of NHS London’s plan to specialise services.

“Across London now we’re seeing the same thing, the majority of major trauma cases and heart attacks are redirected elsewhere, only about 1pc of our emergency admissions are trauma cases now, and we’re a stroke centre so we receive more stroke patients.

“The idea being that, time permitting, you go where you can get the best level of treatment.”

The thought process seems to be working, as one whiteboard in the emergency department proudly declares, more than three quarters of patients would recommend the A&E to friends and family.

But BHRUT’s biggest test is yet to come, when King George’s A&E is reconfigured for good in 2019.