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Infection control concerns at Norfolk Hospital.

Health and care inspectors who raised concerns over infection control in a hospital A&E department said staff did not always wash their hands between patients.

They also found lapses in the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) among staff at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH).

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) report said the service "did not always control infection risk well.”

CQC inspectors visited the hospital in Norwich in December 2020 and witnessed five triage nursing staff not wearing eye protection, within two meters of patients, placing them at risk of contracting Covid-19.

The emergency department's main waiting area "did not clearly highlight the need for people to socially distance by using signs or furniture,"  the CQC report said.

Inspectors also found that national waiting-time targets were not being met, with walk-in patients not always triaged within 15 minutes of arrival.

The triaging of seven patients was delayed by more than an hour, including one who was waiting in "physical discomfort with clear abdominal pain", the report said.

As a result of the report, the trust was issued a warning notice that it must make improvements

Inspectors said: "Medical staff told us there were 'extreme staff shortages' which put a lot of pressure on the other workers."

They also highlighted some examples of outstanding practice, including specialist emergency department provision for older people, but the trust remained rated as "requires improvement" overall.

NNUH chief executive, Sam Higginson, said the hospital had taken "immediate action" over the concerns and now had "dedicated staff supporting patient triage, available 24/7", adding that the number of nurses had been increased along with eight new consultants.

Mr Higginson said he hoped the additional staff would help "bolster the improved culture and stable leadership acknowledged by the CQC.”

Since the inspection, the hospital said it had put in further infection control procedures and enhanced PPE for workers in the emergency department and in "red zones" where confirmed, or suspected, Covid patients are being treated.

Of these staff, 98% have had their first Covid-19 vaccination.

In 2020, NNUH was removed from special measures, having been rated as "inadequate" in June 2018.