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Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital told to improve hygiene amid PPE lapses


Inspectors from the health and care regulator who raised concerns about deficient infection control in a hospital A&E department said staff did not always wash their hands between patients.

The inspectors from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) also found lapses in the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) among staff at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH).

A CQC report about the inspection said the service "did not always control infection risk well.” The hospital said it had taken immediate action following the concerns.

CQC inspectors visited the hospital on Colney Lane, Norwich, and said they witnessed five triage nursing staff, who were not wearing eye protection, within two metres of patients, placing them at risk of contracting Covid-19.

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

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

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

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 staff."

However inspectors also highlighted examples of outstanding practice, including specialist emergency department provision for older people.

Overall the trust remains rated by the CQC as "requires improvement."

NNUH chief executive, Sam Higginson, said the hospital 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-19 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.