MORE improvements have been demanded from Swindon’s hospital by the healthcare regulator.

The Care Quality Commission ranked Great Western Hospital requires improvement.

And in a warning likely to help managers in efforts to secure government investment for improvements, the watchdog said that demand on the Marlborough Road hospital – and its capacity to cope with that demand – were its biggest challenges.

Responding to the latest CQC report, GWH chief executive Kevin McNamara said the hospital had managed to make improvements while treating ever more patients.

Inspectors visited the hospital in February, before the coronavirus pandemic had properly begun to bite. Only urgent and emergency care, medical care, surgery and maternity services were probed.

Of particular concern to inspectors was the demand on the hospital. In particular in A&E, where the number of patients admitted is almost double the figure the unit was designed for – and where bosses anticipate an extra 60 to 80 beds will be needed by 2028.A £30m government grant has been promised in order to expand emergency care at GWH.

The CQC warned in its report: “Demand and capacity were the hospital’s biggest challenges and facilities and premises were not always suitable for the purposes for which they were used.

“Patients were often cared for on trolleys in the corridor in the emergency department and in inpatient assessment areas. This was not a comfortable or dignified experience.

“Some patients, particularly those who had waited overnight on trolleys or on chairs, expressed to us feelings of frustration, tiredness and told us how uncomfortable they were.”

The inspectors’ complaints included:

:: Patients brought to A&E by ambulance were not always promptly handed over to doctors and nurses and waiting times generally were below national averages;

:: Areas were not always clean with “soiled equipment and fittings in bathrooms” on the medically expected unit;

:: Crowding in the surgical assessment unit affected the ability of staff to isolate infectious patients;

:: There were not enough staff and not all staff members were up to date with mandatory safety training.

However, the inspectors acknowledged that managers were aware of the issues around demand and capacity. A new “stranded patients initiative” reviewed daily patients that had been at the hospital for more than seven days.

Staff shortages were being addressed with extra staff recruited in the emergency department. Patients were treated with compassion: “We heard examples where staff had ‘gone the extra mile’, for example staff had taken patients’ washing home and given patients gifts at Christmas.”

The CQC found more than 50 areas where GWH were ordered to make improvements. They include staff training and infection control procedures.

While overall the hospital remained rated as requires improvement, the medical care division was boosted from requires improvement to good.

GWH chief executive Mr McNamara said: “We mustn’t lose sight of the fact we have made all these improvements while treating more and more patients, and having also taken on additional services such as our primary care practices to support the wider health system,” he said.

“It’s also important to remember that the inspection was carried out when the reality of Covid-19 was starting to become apparent and we were preparing for the pandemic.

“We are already working to address the areas for improvement highlighted by the inspectors and I’m confident that this will be recognised when the CQC visit next.