Failing trust is making ‘good’ progress

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The chief executive of the troubled trust that runs King’s Mill Hospital says it is making ’good progress’ against the improvement targets set out in the highly-publicised Keogh report.

Speaking at a public meeting this week, Paul O’Connor outlined the progress being made at Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust since it was placed in special measures earlier this year.

The trust was one of 11 across the country that were scrutinised by Sir Bruce Keogh, the NHS national medical director, because of its higher than expected mortality rates.

But Mr O’Connor said that the recommendations Sir Bruce made are being implemented and improvements are already being seen.

“It’s really important to understand that if the national medical director was undertaking the same assessment today to work out which were the trusts that had to be visited by his teams, we would not be on that list because we are no longer a mortality outlier,” he said.

Thirteen areas for improvement were highlighted by Sir Bruce in his action plan for Sherwood Forest, and the trust has either already delivered the agreed actions or is on track to do so.

Mr O’Connor said that a ‘huge amount of work’ has been done to clear the backlog of complaints - one of the issues that needed immediate attention - and the complaints process has been redesigned with advice from Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

Executive director of nursing and quality, Susan Bowler, said that the revised process will see complaints being dealt with by the medicine, surgery and support divisions within the hospital rather than centrally.

There will also be more communication with a complainant, including the possibility of a home visit, face to face meetings and satisfaction surveys being sent out to see if expectations are met.

“Every complaint that comes in gets thoroughly investigated and that’s why we have a 40 day timescale to reply,” she said.

The number of nurses has also been increased after concerns were raised about staffing levels, with one more nurse per ward now working on night shifts and work being done to address the balance between trained and untrained nursing staff.

“That’s something that will have significant implications and is bound to improve the quality of care that we give,” Mr O’Connor said.

Consultant cover is also being extended at evenings and weekends.

Other actions that have been delivered include a fluid management training programme which ensures vulnerable patients are kept hydrated, the introduction of new quarterly quality and safety reports presented to the Trust Board, a review of the whistleblowing policy and the rolling out of the National Early Warning System, which helps to identify patients who are deteriorating.

Sherwood Forest will remain in special measures at least until after it is formally re-inspected by the Care Quality Commission next year, though an unannounced visit could take place at any time.

Mr O’Connor added: “There’s a lot that we have to do but I think we are making really good progress and as long as we keep patient safety as the number one thing we measure everything by, we will continue to make that progress.”