Hull A&E team scoops national award for patient safety

Communications TeamNews

Emergency care staff standing on a stage. One woman in the centre of the group is holding a winner's trophy.

Staff from Hull Royal Infirmary’s A&E Department have won a national award for patient safety.

Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust’s Emergency Department was awarded the 2023 Health Service Journal (HSJ) Award for Patient Safety, arguably one of healthcare’s most sought-after titles, at a special awards ceremony last night.

Emergency Department staff received the award for their project: “Improving the diagnostic detection of thoracic aortic dissection in the Emergency Department.” The category was intensely competitive with over 100 applications and 9 short-listed projects.

Driven forward by three Emergency Medicine Consultants; Dr Austin Smithies (pictured, right), Dr Jehad Abed, and Dr Audrey Fox, along with Advanced Clinical Practitioner Leigh Norman and information services manager, Stuart Leadley, the project is already helping to improve the care delivered to patients in Hull Royal’s A&E, as Dr Smithies explains:

Dr Austin Smithies, smiling and standing in the emergency department.

Dr Austin Smithies, Emergency Medicine Consultant

“Acute Aortic Dissection (AAD) can affect adults of all ages, but can be difficult to diagnose as it only accounts for around 1 in every 1,000 cases of atraumatic chest pain, so misdiagnosis is not unusual.

“Eighteen months ago, a young man tragically died after he was misdiagnosed and sent home from our Emergency Department. We were keen to take steps to reduce the chances of this happening again for him, for his family, and for other members of our community who are affected by AAD.

“It is estimated that each hour of delay in diagnosis could equate to a 2 per cent increase in mortality but when the diagnosis of AAD is made early, survival rates could be better than 80 per cent.

“Our project involved data monitoring, ensuring timelier access to CT scans and investigations, and creating an open and honest forum for discussion with staff, bringing in knowledge and experience from colleagues in radiology, vascular and cardiothoracic surgery. The proactive involvement of the Thoracic Aortic Dissection Charitable Trust was also considered invaluable.

“As a result of this work, we’ve now developed a new Trust guideline, “Diagnosis and early management of Acute Aortic Syndrome” to support clinical decision making. Our work has also been shared regionally as an example of good practice and, crucially, clinical staff in Hull are now more confident when it comes to diagnosing and treating AAD.”

Dr Smithies and his colleagues were presented with their trophy at the national HSJ Awards ceremony in London last night. Speaking about the success, he says:

“Winning this award means everything to us. I submitted an application because I wanted to showcase the passion and ability of my colleagues in Emergency Medicine. Winning the award means that we can now implement a region wide initiative to improve detection of AAD. It will also provide impetus for the ambitious programme of Quality Improvement being undertaken in our department.”

Dr Richard Owen-Smith, medical director for the Trust’s Emergency Care Health Group, says:

“We are immensely proud of the team for their achievements and what this means for the patients of Hull and surrounding areas. Any opportunity to improve outcomes for our patients must be seized upon and developed, and this is a perfect example of work coordinated across a multi-disciplinary team resulting in positive outcomes. Well done to the ED team.”