Lengthy waits in the Emergency Department (ED) at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro were the most common concern reported in a feedback survey published today by Healthwatch Cornwall.

Others related to the suitability and accessibility of information and advice provided by referral services and on site; confidentiality in the reception area; lack of access to food and drink; lack of facilities like books, magazines and TV during extended waits; parking; inadequate signage and cleanliness.

Positive comments related to the standard of staff care, treatment and service.

The Healthwatch Cornwall team conducted the two-day survey from 8am to 6pm on a weekday and from 6pm to 11pm on a Saturday in September and October last year. 92 people agreed to take part.

Questions were focused on which services had been contacted for advice before arrival, how patients were transported to the ED, if they were on an NHS waiting list and whether they would have gone to a minor injuries unit (MIU), rather than the ED, if one was available in Truro.

Respondents were also asked about their financial situation, how they felt about their ED experience and what they felt could be improved.

Key findings included:

·      87% of people had sought prior advice before travelling to the ED.

·      13% had self-referred.

·      20% were there on the advice of NHS 111.

·      15% were advised to come by their GP. 

·      15% were there after calling 999.

·      76% arrived by private transport.

·      23% were on an NHS waiting list.

·      33% had used the ED in the last six months.

Debbie Gilbert, CEO of Healthwatch Cornwall, said:

“We are very grateful to everyone involved in compiling this report. 

“Based on the findings, our recommendations include:

·    Managing people’s expectations about what will happen when they arrive at ED by keeping all services up to date with information about ED protocols (i.e. admission direct to a ward, further triage etc).

·    Ensuring ‘real-time’ communication between agencies so that patients are always referred to the most appropriate service and aren’t left waiting without access to assessment or treatment.

·      Responding to feedback by implementing a strategy for improving the ED environment, the facilities available, parking and ways of keeping people informed.

“It is seven years since Healthwatch Cornwall’s previous report on the Emergency Department, and the demands on our health and care system are even more apparent. As such, one of the main questions of this survey was to determine whether people are seeking out advice from other services prior to arrival at ED, and what might be done to improve their experiences while there.” 

Chief Executive at Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Debbie Richards, said:

“I welcome this report which provides a useful insight into how people use the emergency department and other services. Its findings will help inform how we promote our 10 minor injury units. They are an important part of the urgent care offer across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.”

Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust, Chief Nursing Officer, Kim O’Keeffe said:

“This is a welcome report, and we’d like to thank all the patients and carers who agreed to take part. It is heartening for our staff, who are working tirelessly to do their very best in often challenging circumstances, to see that so many patients were satisfied with the care they received and felt they were treated with compassion.

“Through sharing their experiences with Healthwatch Cornwall we get a truly independent reflection on the care we provide, and the environment in which we provide it, and we will use the feedback to help us make improvements.”

Jan Randall, the Chief Executive of Kernow Health CIC, said:

 “We welcome this report and its findings and are looking forward to continued partnership working with Healthwatch to support future engagement. We have invited the Healthwatch team to visit the Cornwall 111 service to see the patient facing service in progress. We would also like to bring focus and information to the report that will assist the readers and hopefully generate further constructive feedback that we can also act upon for the benefit of local patients and the service that they receive”.

Healthwatch Cornwall is one of 150 Healthwatch organisations in England that uses feedback to highlight local health and social care challenges and help improve local services. 

To view the report, visit Hospital Emergency Department Survey | Healthwatch Cornwall