NHS Trust To Come Out of Special Measures

Inspectors are recommending East Kent Hospitals University NHS Trust (EKHUFT) can now be taken out of special measures, two years after it was rated "inadequate" by the Care Quality Commission.

The CQC says it saw widespread improvements to the quality of care patients receive during a reinspection of Trust’s hospitals in Ashford, Canterbury and Margate in September.

Sir Mike Richards, England’s Chief Inspector of Hospitals, says: "Staff at all levels are contributing to the improvement programme and as a result a momentum of improvement is apparent within the organisation.”

This is the third inspection for the Trust since 2014 and looked in detail at four areas at three of the Trust’s five hospitals - emergency care, medical services, maternity and gynaecology and end of life care.

The Trust was placed in special measures by Monitor (now NHS Improvement) in 2014 when the CQC rated the Trust ‘inadequate’. A year later the Trust was upgraded to ‘requires improvement’ as a result of “big steps forward” witnessed by the CQC. The Trust remained in special measures to allow more time to fully embed the improvements.

While the overall Trust rating remains ‘requires improvement’, the CQC report "indicates a number of areas in which further significant improvements have been obtained, notably that there are no longer any elements that are rated inadequate."

Key findings include:

    Safer emergency services at all hospitals, with the Urgent Care Centre at The Kent and Canterbury Hospital (K&C) upgraded to ‘good’ overall; safer services at Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital’s (QEQM) A&E department; and safer, more effective and better-led services at William Harvey Hospital’s (WHH) A&E department;    
    Improved medical care at all hospitals, with services at QEQM upgraded to ‘good’ overall, more effective at WHH and more responsive at K&C; 
    All hospitals rated ‘good’ for ‘caring’, with a continued “culture of compassionate care”, staff who put patients first, and patients and carers confident in how involved they are in their or their relatives’ care; 
    Outstanding practice was found in the Trust’s Improvement and Innovation Hubs, highlighted as “an established forum to give staff the opportunity to learn about and contribute to the Trust’s improvement journey”; 
    Improved leadership, with a fully established Executive Team and Trust Board, described as a “highly engaged team with a clear and common view on Trust strategy, risk and operational priorities”, who have provided “greater clarity” about the direction of the Trust, with staff “appreciative of the increased visibility and accessibility” of the Executive Team; 
    Improved staffing, recognising that “significant investment has been made by the Trust to increasing staffing establishment”, with “key appointments made in emergency care, end of life care and maternity” addressing previous gaps;  
    Better culture within the Trust, which had “improved significantly since 2014” and continues on “a trajectory of improvement with a continued reduction in bullying and harassment”; 
    Improved end of life care, with better training and resources to support staff caring for patients at the end of their life and their relatives; 
    Improved maternity services, with more staff, better equipment and new leadership.

Trust Chief Executive, Matthew Kershaw, said: "The tangible improvements recognised by the CQC are the result of our thousands of dedicated and hardworking staff who have together driven improvements for patients in their wards, clinics, theatres, laboratories, workshops and offices over the last two years.

“This is a major step forward in our ongoing journey to improve how we care for our patients, their relatives and our staff. We have made significant progress which means that hospitals provide better care for our patients and are better places for our staff to work.”  

The CQC reports also highlights further areas for improvement, such as recruiting and retaining more staff, enabling more patients to access treatment sooner, improving the flow of patients through our hospitals, fully embedding early signs of improvement in maternity and end of life care, and making financial savings.

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