Bosses at Stevenage’s Lister Hospital respond to ‘National Hellish Service’ label after damning press coverage which comes on top of ‘requires improvement’ ruling from CQC watchdog

The emergency department at the Lister Hospital

The emergency department at the Lister Hospital - Credit: Archant

Conditions in the emergency department at Stevenage’s Lister Hospital may not be in the best shape, but it’s no excuse for comparing them to a disaster area like Pearl Harbour. That’s the conclusion reached by one patient after yesterday’s Sun newspaper report which slated the hospital as an example of the ‘National Hellish Service’ – with iPhone pictures taken by a patient showing trollies lined up in the corridors.

And before the national paper hit the streets, hospital chiefs had already revealed a £2 million plan to add more than 20 beds – the equivalent of an extra ward – to the hard-pressed department in a bid to clear the bottlenecks.

Mental health professional Caroline Rook – who works at Cygnet Hospital in Graveley Road and lives near the Lister – spotted her leg in one of the pictures published by the Sun, after taking her daughter to the hospital on Monday.

The Welwyn Garden City patient at the centre of the exposé claimed she returned from a shower to find her bed had been taken by another patient, that people were forced to eat and sleep in corridors, and eventually left the hospital in disgust without getting treatment.

The Sun revelations came the day after an official report from the Care Quality Commission, which inspected the East & North Herts NHS Trust in October.


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It highlighted the emergency department as a key weakness and delivered a ‘requires improvement’ verdict on the NHS trust as a whole.

But Caroline – who stayed with her daughter for six hours while she waited for treatment – said: “It definitely isn’t fair to compare it to a disaster zone.

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“I couldn’t fault the nurses and doctors. They were just so rushed, there were queues with ambulances outside, but they kept calm and were absolutely amazing – and they were so methodical.

“They were just so overstretched, but they tried to get everybody through as quickly as possible.

“There was a cheerful housekeeper going around giving people cups of coffee and packets of biscuits.

“The way the nurses dealt with my daughter was brilliant. I would say it was organised chaos.”

A spokesman for the NHS trust said: “A&E attendances, especially for those who need to be admitted to a hospital, are at an all-time high.

“These pressures result in some patients attending our A&E at the Lister being cared for in areas that we would not seek to use normally, such as corridors within the emergency department.”

But he said it was clear from the Sun pictures that all patients were receiving treatment, and while some were having to wait to be seen for more than four hours – the national benchmark – feedback from those who had complained about long waits also made it clear that the quality of care was invariably of a high standard.

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