While staff working on the front line were praised in the CQC report, staff shortages have left emergency centres overcrowded, patients remaining in hospital when they could have been discharged, and long waiting times for ambulances as patients were handed over to hospitals.
The report also said there was an issue with residents calling 999 when it was not necessary, and there had been a lack of action in some GP surgeries to reduce people attending hospital emergency departments unnecessarily.
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CQC’s findings come as part of a series of reviews into urgent and emergency care. As part of its review in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, CQC inspected urgent and emergency care and medical care services run by North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust and Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust as well as the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust. CQC also carried out inspections at Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, some local GP surgeries, adult social care services and the local NHS 111 service.
Mandy Williams, CQC’s director of integrated care, inequalities and improvement, said: “While health and social care staffing shortages are a national issue, system leaders in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough must find further ways to minimise the impact on people in their area through smarter ways of working, staff recruitment and retention, and collaboration.
“Although system leaders are finding new ways to tackle these issues, without further management there is a risk the quality and safety of care people receive could be undermined."
Staff went above and beyond for patients
Ms Williams added: “Despite this pressure, staff went above and beyond for patients in many of the services we inspected in the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Integrated Care System.
“However, people didn’t always receive timely care and treatment in the most appropriate service for their needs.
“This led to overcrowding in urgent and emergency care departments, which created avoidable pressure for staff who were trying to ensure patient safety, and it also delayed ambulance handovers.
“We found staff shortages in adult social care meant people remained in hospital when they should have been discharged to respite services. This reduced the number of available beds elsewhere in hospitals where patients in emergency departments could be referred.”
Good collaboration between GPs and consultants
Ms Williams also said a number of steps were being taken in the area. She said; “Some system-wide steps were being taken to reduce the pressure. We found some good collaboration between GPs and consultants to treat people in their homes or without using urgent and emergency care.
“We also found the local NHS 111 service performed generally as well as or better than those in other areas, and there was good triaging in this service to refer people appropriately.
“However, more work is needed locally to deliver system-wide solutions to ensure people consistently receive high-quality, timely care and treatment in the right service for their needs.
“If successful, this would reduce pressure on urgent and emergency care services and reduce the risk of harm to people living in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.”