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Tuesday, 29 July 2014

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North Cumbrian hospitals making progress but still work to do

Significant progress has been made at north Cumbria’s failing hospitals – but there is still more work to do.

Cumberland Infirmary photo
The Cumberland Infirmary

Monitor and the NHS Trust Development Authority (TDA) yesterday published a new report looking at the changes which had been made to some of England’s most troubled hospitals.

North Cumbria University Hospitals Trust, which runs Carlisle and Whitehaven hospitals, was one of 11 trusts put into special measures in July last year as part of the national Keogh review.

Sir Bruce Keogh was instructed to look into shocking mortality rates at 14 hospital trusts, and his report last July was critical of a series of failings within these hospitals.

In the months since Carlisle’s Cumberland Infirmary and the West Cumberland Hospital, Whitehaven, were placed into special measures, a number of changes have been made.

The Cumbrian trust had been in the process of being acquired by Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, but this was put on hold as a result of the Keogh report.

Instead, the Northumbria trust was appointed as a “mentor” trust, to guide the Cumbrians out of special measures and give vital support.

The Monitor and TDA report states: “The trust was placed into special measures due to sustained failings in the governance arrangements to ensure the safe maintenance of the estate and equipment.

“Additionally the trust had inadequate staffing levels and was over-reliant on locum cover in some areas.”

It adds: “Since entering special measures the trust has been actively recruiting nurses and permanent consultants.

“By the end of February five new doctors will have joined the trust since entering special measures, and the trust has recruited an additional 67 nurses and nursing support staff.

“The number of patients that would recommend the trust to friends and family has increased.”

North Cumbria was ordered to complete 19 actions as part of their Keogh Action Plan. As of January, six had been delivered, 11 were on track to be delivered and two were not on track.

“While the trust has significantly strengthened the leadership and management capacity there are still some specific gaps within the management structure. The trust is actively recruiting to fill these roles,” the report states.

“The trust still needs to reduce the number of locum doctors it employs.

“This will mean continuing to work hard to recruit to the vacant posts.”

It concludes: “There is further work to do to ensure future services across the trust are sustainable.

“While nurse staffing has improved there is need to both maintain this increase and retain existing staff.”

Jeremy Rushmer, medical director at North Cumbria University NHS Trust, said he was excited by some of the improvements and progress regarding safety and quality.

He added: “At the same time as delivering the best quality healthcare, we have to ensure that patients are safe and that we are meeting the national regulatory safety and quality standards.

“It will be very important over the next few weeks and months that this momentum continues and our improvement plans continue to be delivered.”

Jim Mackey, chief executive of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said:.

“There are, of course, still challenges ahead, but with the continued commitment from all staff I am confident that improvements will continue to be made in preparation for the future acquisition.

“In the meantime, we are stepping up our efforts to accelerate progress to ensure acquisition can take place sooner rather than later.”

The picture is being echoed across England.

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