Croydon University Hospital A&E 'probably one of the worst in the country' says leaked letter
OVER recent weeks, the Advertiser has revealed the in-fighting plaguing Croydon University Hospital’s management at the very top. This week, a damning leaked letter has laid bare the impact the disarray on the hospital’s board is having on patient care. David Churchill reports...
A DAMNING letter leaked to the Advertiser has described Croydon University Hospital's A&E as "probably one of the worst in the country", which is in "constant chaos" amid staff shortages and "systems 20 years behind the rest of the country".
The letter, sent from frontline A&E staff directly to the hospital's interim chief executive John Goulston, also reveals daily "constant breaches", a "bullying" culture and begs Mr Goulston and his management team – branded "the worst" countrywide – to visit the department.
It comes after Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell this week spoke in Parliament to reveal the emergency department does not have enough senior doctors, and a CQC ruling which reveals understaffing is leading to "poor" patient care.
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The letter, signed by "a group of very concerned long-serving staff" on November 19, says:
"This A&E is probably one of the worst A&E departments in the country if not THE worst in terms of management, lack of infrastructure and lack of leadership.
"There are constant breaches every day and unnecessary long delays in patient care.
"All the nurses and doctors in A&E are increasingly frustrated…. being forced to work with a very poor system that is 20 years behind the rest of the A&Es in the country.
"This A&E department does not even have the very basic system for addressograph of patients. We are wasting at least ten to 20 per cent of our working time by not having this very basic addressograph. Every other hospital in the country has this system … this is unbelievable in the 21st century in London.
"You might work 10 to 4 from Monday to Friday but we work 24/7, 365 days including Christmas and New Year. All we ask is please do come to A&E and see for yourself. And please do act fast before this department collapses."
The letter also comes following a vote of no confidence passed in Mr Goulston by hospital board members, who are plotting a walkout if he is handed the vacant permanent chief executive role.
Bitter in-fighting has been rumbling on between the hospital's directors for weeks. It first surfaced after the resignation of former chairman Michael Parker in December.
Gavin Barwell described the letter as "highly concerning" while highlighting the "impact" of the chaos on patient care.
He said: "First of all we know that our A&E doesn't have the right number of senior doctors.
"The second thing is, I visited the urgent care centre the other day where they said that part of the problem was also the lack of an IT system.
"And thirdly, a CQC report came out which identified Croydon as one of the hospitals across the country which is understaffed.
"It is pretty clear that governance and leadership problems have impacted on performance, and that is why they need to be resolved urgently. There has been a breakdown of relations and it has damaged the interests of patients."
Croydon North MP Steve Reed said: "This is not the first time we've heard serious complaints about the quality of care and management at Croydon University Hospital. I hope the chief executive will act quickly to reassure staff, patients and local people that the issues we know exist at the hospital are being gripped and sorted out urgently."
The spat at the hospital erupted with board members, who passed the vote of no confidence, claiming their vote to topple Mr Goulston has been overruled by NHS London – the overseeing strategic health authority (SHA).
Those overruled are now seeking legal advice on whether NHS London acted illegally, while the SHA is also seeking legal advice to defend their intervention to keep Mr Goulston in place, the Advertiser understands.
Last week we spoke to Mr Goulston at his townhouse in Forest Hill, where he denied the vote of no confidence.
After presenting Mr Goulston with the damning A&E letter he said he would step up his on-floor presence.
He said: "I am very keen to ensure that all staff feel able to contact me directly to raise concerns, and can be assured that I will respond openly and honestly. I want to increase the visibility of myself and the executive team to be out and about, regularly talking to patients and staff face to face, both within the hospital and our community services."
A spokesman for health watchdog the Care Quality Commission said: "Maintaining the right staffing levels is a massive challenge for a number of outer London trusts, but we expect all trusts to meet the national standards, regardless of those challenges.
"At the June inspection, the team identified moderate concerns about staffing levels at the hospital. While most of the feedback from patients and their relatives about staff was positive, the overall perception was that there were not enough staff around, especially at night and at the weekends."