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Patients admitted to virtual ward to avoid target breach, claims whistleblower

Staff at a hospital admitted patients to a ‘virtual ward’ to avoid breaching the four-hour emergency department target, a whistleblower has claimed.
Worcestershire_Ac_Hosp_Trust-PA.jpg

Staff at a hospital admitted patients to a virtual ward to avoid breaching the four-hour emergency department target, a whistleblower has claimed.

They claimed that patients at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals were kept in accident and emergency, but were recorded as being admitted to a ward that did not exist.

An investigation regarding the claims, carried out by Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust, found that breaches of the target may have been under-reported.

The report also found some patients whose recorded admission time did not match the time they were actually moved.

Worcestershire Acute Hospitals has not hit the four-hour target since at least the beginning of 2013, the Health Service Journal reported.

No evidence of fraud

Staff at a hospital admitted patients to a ‘virtual ward’ to avoid breaching the four-hour emergency department target, a whistleblower has claimed.


Alexandra Hospital, part of Worcestershire Acute Hospitals, was accused of
admitting emergency department patients to a ward that did not exist. Picture: PA News

They claimed that patients at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals were kept in accident and emergency, but were recorded as being admitted to a ward that did not exist.

An investigation regarding the claims, carried out by Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust, found that breaches of the target may have been under-reported.

The report also found some patients whose recorded admission time did not match the time they were actually moved.

Worcestershire Acute Hospitals has not hit the four-hour target since at least the beginning of 2013, the Health Service Journal reported.

No evidence of fraud

In a statement, the trust said investigations found cases of ‘poor processes and recording’ but no evidence of any deliberate attempts by staff to ‘defraud or game the system’.

A former staff member who worked in the trust’s accident and emergency department said the virtual Emergency Department Unit (EDU) was nicknamed a ‘breach avoidance unit’.

They also said staff felt under pressure from managers to æfalsify records for the four-hour target’, and nurses did not want trust managers ‘harassing’ them over four-hour breaches.

A trust spokesperson said the trust did not recognise these claims and refuted them.

Not good enough 

Trust chair Caragh Merrick said: ‘We can confirm that these alleged practices are not happening today and that previous investigations show that virtual EDU was a language issue rather than a policy initiative.

‘Since joining the trust in September, I have regularly acknowledged that we need to change some aspects of the way we operate, and also the way we engage and communicate with patients, public and stakeholders.

‘We are a very challenged trust and our performance against a number of targets and indicators hasn’t been, and isn’t, good enough.’

Ms Merrick added that a different culture would be introduced at the trust, with a new permanent leadership team in place.


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