The West Suffolk Hospital has lost its “outstanding” rating and has been downgraded to “requires improvement” following its latest inspection by the health regulator.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) found “significant concerns and risks to patients” in the maternity service by the West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust with a warning to improve by the end of this month.
Although staff were praised for treating patients with “compassion and kindness”, inspectors highlighted issues with the leadership and how some staff felt unable to raise concerns “without fear of retribution”.
Chief executive Dr Stephen Dunn said he was “disappointed” with the rating and said the hospital would move “quickly and effectively” to fix the issues raised in the report.
He said: “This not the standard that our patients and community deserve. We’ve addressed the immediate safety concerns and the Trust has taken action – including the introduction of nationally recognised monitoring for women and their babies. We’ve listened to what the CQC has said and getting things right for our patients is our top priority.”
However, there was some good news as it was rated “good” for being effective and caring, but was deemed as “requires improvement” for being responsive, well-led, and safe.
Of the West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust’s individual service ratings, 42 are rated “good” or “outstanding”, 11 are rated as “requires improvement”, and one is rated as “inadequate”.
The CQC inspectors found that staff across the board “treated patients with compassion and kindness, respected their privacy and dignity, took account of their individual needs, and helped them understand their conditions”, and that they “gave patients and those close to them help, emotional support and advice when they needed it to minimise their distress.”
Dr Dunn added: “While we acknowledge and accept the areas of concern this report highlights, the CQC has rated many of the Trust’s services as good or outstanding and found that NHS teams across the board treated patients with compassion and respect, and we’re pleased our hardworking staff have been recognised.”
However, the report also signals areas where improvement is needed, including some areas not fully managing infection risks, medicines management or record keeping well enough, and staff not always feeling able to raise concerns.
Trust chair Sheila Childerhouse said: “Although inspectors reflected that we “promoted an open culture” and had “visible and approachable” leaders, it is clear that in some areas our staff are not feeling as supported as they should be. We appreciate and value our staff and know their knowledge and expertise will be at the heart of addressing some of the problems the CQC has identified. We will be reviewing our culture and openness to make sure there is an environment where everyone – including our patients, our staff and our commissioners – has an opportunity to contribute and play a full part in our improvement.
“I am still immensely proud of the work our staff do, every day, to care for people in their time of need. We will make the improvements required.”
Community services – which were inspected for the first time as part of the Trust – were rated as “good” overall and with inspectors highlighting areas of “outstanding practice” in health services for children and young people.
The CQC made seven visits across September and October 2019, spoke to 70 patients and 237 staff, and reviewed 135 patient records.
The CQC sought action on things the Trust must do in 32 areas. The Trust is developing a robust improvement plan and progress on this will be formally monitored at the Trust Board and reported back to the CQC.
The full report of the CQC’s findings is on the CQC’s website: https://www.cqc.org.uk/provider/RGR