Two Northumberland patients died after 'serious incidents' involving delays - but 'no conclusive evidence' hold-ups contributed to deaths, report reveals

There were two ‘serious incidents’ last year involving delays for Northumberland patients who subsequently died – though there was no conclusive evidence the hold-ups were a contributing factor – a report has revealed.
The Northumbria Hospital at Cramlington.The Northumbria Hospital at Cramlington.
The Northumbria Hospital at Cramlington.

One involved a patient who had chest pain and collapsed, but the ambulance took 43 minutes to arrive as the address was input incorrectly into the system.

They were dead when the crew arrived, but ‘there is no conclusive evidence to indicate whether the delay directly contributed to the death of this patient’.

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The other incident saw a patient have a cardiac arrest and die in the A&E department after a treatment delay of just over four hours, with his notes having been placed in the wrong priority queue.

However, ‘it is not clear whether an earlier diagnosis would have altered the outcome’.

These incidents both come from a patient impact report – the first of its kind – which was presented to NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group’s (CCG) governing body meeting on September 25.

Chief operating officer Siobhan Brown said: “It’s a starter for 10 this report, but I think it can be a really powerful tool for commissioning.”

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One of the lay governors, Karen Bower, added: “I’m delighted to see this (report) because this is what we are all about, how it impacts the patient.”

In terms of ambulance response times, in 2018-19, 12,547 Northumberland patients were not treated within the required standard, including 1,215 in category one (an immediate response to a life-threatening condition).

In the first quarter of this financial year, there were 4,063 Northumberland patients who were not treated within the required standard.

Last year, 12 patients experienced handover delays of more than two hours when arriving at the Northumbria hospital in Cramlington by ambulance, all of which were during the winter. The report says there ‘no detriment to all of the affected patients’.

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In terms of the target for emergency department patients being seen within four hours, 6,061 patients were not treated or admitted within four hours of arrival at A&E during 2018-19, with just the single serious incident mentioned above.

There were a total of 255 cancer patients that were not treated within 62 days, missing the national target, but there were no serious incidents reported.

With regard to general waiting times against the referral to treatment target, 19,392 patients were not seen within 18 weeks of being referred by their GP to a consultant, but again no serious incidents were reported.