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North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust to come out of special measures

North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust is ready to come out of special measures providing it maintains its focus on quality, says CQC.

England’s Chief Inspector of Hospitals has recommended that North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust should come out of special measures, after an inspection by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

If the recommendation is accepted, North Cumbria will be the final NHS trust to exit special measures, out of the original 11 that were placed in the regime by Sir Bruce Keogh in July 2013 as part of his review of trusts with high mortality rates.

During CQC’s inspection of North Cumbria last December 2016, CQC found improvements in the trust’s West Cumberland Hospital and Cumberland Infirmary sites – such as to the patient environment and cleanliness and around the changes to the trust’s senior management and approach.

In recognition of this, CQC has made its recommendation to NHS Improvement for the trust to exit special measures; however, it retains its overall rating of Requires Improvement as CQC has concluded that further work is still needed to ensure that patients receive consistently safe, effective and well led healthcare. In particular, CQC identified ongoing concerns around nursing and medical staff vacancies (including a reliance on locum cover and unfilled shifts), around patient flow from A&E to other departments (including the four-hour target not being met) and around cancelled elective surgeries (including at short notice).

Professor Sir Mike Richards, Chief Inspector of Hospitals at the Care Quality Commission (CQC), said:

“It is now almost four years since North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust was placed into special measures because of concerns about mortality rates and standards of care. In the past two years there have been significant changes to the senior management team; they have worked well together, with external support, to address the issues identified in both Sir Bruce Keogh’s Review and in our subsequent inspections. I am now pleased to be able to recommend they come out of special measures.”

“Although there has been progress, particularly in the effectiveness of the services being provided, there is still a lot of work to do….I note that despite ongoing recruitment campaigns, staffing is still a concern in some areas of the trust including surgery, and services for children and young people. However, there have been some staffing improvements within medical care at West Cumberland Hospital, with the trust securing long-term locum contracts and implementing a staffing support agreement with Cumberland Infirmary.”

David Blacklock CEO of Healthwatch Cumbria said “we are thrilled that the hard work of staff has been recognised, we have seen the trust come a long way over recent months and whilst there is still a great deal to be done it’s clear that the trust is on the right track.”

Full reports will be available on CQC’s website  (Wednesday):