Praise for Stafford Hospital

After one of the worst scandals in NHS history, a report has just been released praising Stafford Hospital for making significant improvements.

The Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust was condemned for appalling standards of care after an inquiry found routine neglect.

Now the Care Quality Commission has announced that it would lift five of six conditions imposed on the trust,

The trust, which runs Stafford Hospital, is currently the subject of a full public inquiry which will examine why systemic failings were not discovered sooner by NHS regulators.

In its newly released review, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) evaluated the progress made by the Trust to implement recommendations following a report published by the Healthcare Commission in March last year.

The CQC said standards at Stafford had since improved and that the trust was now "listening and responding" to concerns raised by patients.

Meanwhile, mortality rates at Stafford are declining, there are more nurses and patients are generally positive about their care.

But the CQC found that a number of important improvements remained outstanding - with nurses reporting difficulty in accessing equipment to prevent sores, and some patients being required to wait for too long in the accident and emergency department.

As part of the latest review, the CQC conducted announced and unannounced inspections during March and April, including an unannounced visit to the A&E facilities during the night.

Conditions governing staffing levels, the monitoring of care, staff training, the management of patients, and the maintenance of medical equipment within the trust will now be lifted, but a sixth condition relating to supervision and appraisal of staff was not assessed during the recent review and will be checked on next month.

Andrea Gordon, the CQC's regional director in the West Midlands, thanked trust staff for their frank and honest accounts of standards at the trust and said Stafford Hospital had "come a long way" in the past year, putting safety very squarely at the top of its agenda.

Dr Gordon said: "I'm sure this has been a long, hard year for everyone at the trust. The problems were huge and the programme of reform was ambitious, but it has certainly paid off.

"This is a very different trust to the one we saw a year ago. There is a culture of openness and accountability."

"But there is still a lot to be done - there are still instances where care is not to the standard it should be. We will continue to scrutinise standards very closely to make sure that progress isn't lost."

Robert Francis, QC, is currently preparing for a public inquiry into the trust, which was announced by the Health Secretary last month and will study the role of supervisory and regulatory bodies in failings at Stafford Hospital.

Antony Sumara, Chief Executive of Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust says:

"We would like to thank all of the staff at our hospitals who have worked so hard over the last year to help us to achieve improvements in the way we care for our patients.

The positive feedback from the patients who were surveyed by the CQC is a great morale boost for staff. The patients' experiences reflect the real improvements in care on our wards.

We know that there are still a lot of areas where we need to get better and we have plans already underway to address the issues which still need improving.

We are determined to drive these improvements through and will deal openly and quickly with any examples of poor care or unacceptable behaviour.

The report from the CQC confirms that we are on the right track and it will help us to really focus our efforts on making things better for our patients and their families over the coming months."

Julie Bailey's been campaigning for a full public inquiry into the hospital since her mum died there in November 2007 and told Heart more still needs to be done:

"We want to see how many complaints are coming in and the nature of these complaints, we want to see staffing levels ward by ward shift by shift, we need to see infection rates, we want to see people being tested coming into hospital and when discharged, and we need to see the mortality rates and a full explanation of deaths."