As many of you will know, in addition to my role as a Basildon borough councillor for Billericay East, I have also been, for a little over two years, a member of the Council of Governors of the Basildon & Thurrock University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. Although this website is primarily devoted to my role as a Councillor for Billericay East, I just wanted to pen this quick blog in my capacity as a Governor of Basildon Hospital.
Last week, Basildon University Hospital was awarded a second ‘good’ rating by the health regulator, the Care Quality Commission (CQC). This was a landmark result for our local hospital, which you will all be aware has faced significant challenges in recent years. Our hospital was rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ in seven out of eight areas, after the CQC’s recent follow-up inspection. Our hospital is now among the top 28% best performers in the NHS, with significant improvements made in A&E, medicine and surgery – all of which are now rated ‘good’.
In addition to these ‘good’ ratings, the hospital also achieved an ‘outstanding’ ranking in the areas of innovation and development of staff in A&E, as well as the hospital’s emergency planning. The CQC report found that staff feel ‘proud’ to work there and demonstrated further improvements in the quality of care delivered to patients.
It is just worth pointing out, to give a frame of reference, that only 28% of the 113 hospital trusts inspected by the CQC to date have received the top ratings of ‘outstanding’ or ‘good’ (2% and 26% respectively). The other ratings are ‘requires improvement’ and ‘inadequate’.
It has been a hard road for the Trust and we were all hugely relieved when Basildon Hospital was taken out of special measures in June last year, following the recommendation of Prof Sir Michael Richards, the CQC’s Chief Inspector of Hospitals. It followed an inspection in March 2014, which first rated the hospital as ‘good’, and described the Trust as delivering “very good care in most areas”. It also delivered the first ever ‘outstanding’ maternity department in the NHS and described “excellent leadership” and a “change in culture”. Full credit for this must go to the excellent staff at the hospital (NB: My wife works there as an Intensive Care Nurse, so I may be biased) and the very effective leadership the Trust has enjoyed under our Chief Executive, Clare Panniker.
Following the 2014 report, Sir Michael and his inspectors revisited the hospital, a year later in March 2015, to establish what progress had been made in the areas they had identified as requiring further improvement. Sir Michael’s report from that visit details improvements in A&E, medicine and surgery, which saw these areas move from ‘requires improvement’ to ‘good’; identified “significant improvements” in medicines management, which meant patient care was now safer, as well as in the care of patients in surgery, who told inspectors they felt well cared for; innovation around the development of medical staff in A&E was described as ‘outstanding’, with several individuals progressing to consultant level at a time when there is a national shortage of A&E medical staff; and the preparedness of staff for major or emergency incidents was also described as ‘outstanding’.
I think we all know there are still challenges facing Basildon Hospital, and the wider NHS, but I hope that this very positive report from the CQC, which recognises the continued improvement of Basildon Hospital, will satisfy the people of Basildon, whom I represent as a Public Governor, and all the people of Thurrock and elsewhere, who use the hospital, that since our inspection in 2014, staff at the hospital have worked incredibly hard to demonstrate that the decision to take us out of special measures was justified. This report tells us that the Trust is continuing to move in the right direction and can be proud of the high quality care Basildon Hospital delivers to patients. As Clare Panniker has put it, “We cannot stand still, successful healthcare organisations always need to learn and look for ways to improve. We recognise we have more work to do – particularly in critical care – and we have already started to implement an action plan to address the areas where the inspectors said we need to perform better.” But, speaking as a public governor, I am satisfied – and the inspectors concur – that the leadership and management of the Trust have a clear vision and a credible strategy to deliver high quality care to patients. Indeed, the report found that hospital staff praised the organisation’s executive team, speaking about them with “enthusiasm and respect”.
I have certainly found this to be true in my own dealings with hospital staff. There is great faith in Clare and her team to deliver the leadership the hospital needs. There has been a distinct change in culture. Staff now feel they are encouraged to speak up and raise concerns about issues affecting patient safety so they could be addressed quickly and patients told inspectors that staff were caring and listened to them and were treated with dignity and respect. One patient said: “It really has been a wonderful place to stay in. The staff have been fantastic and have been there for me whenever I needed anything.” Out of the sixty areas on which the CQC bases its rating, fifty-two were scored ‘good’. The other eight were scored ‘requires improvement’. The Trust had no areas rated ‘inadequate’. The CQC team also asked five questions about services: are they safe, caring, effective, well-led and responsive to people’s needs? The hospital received four ‘good’ ratings for being caring, responsive, effective and well-led. Although the inspectors found that services were safe, they said some improvements were required.
The Trust will take the feedback from this latest CQC seriously. We’re not going to rest on our laurels and only acknowledge the positive bits. Clare Panniker and her team will now be going forward with clinical staff and working hard to ensure the Trust can demonstrate a marked improvement in areas where the CQC felt we still need some improvement. The Council of Governors will play their part in this and, when the inspectors visit next time, I am confident that they will once again identify marked improvements in these areas. But make no mistake, this report once again shows local people that they have a hospital they can be proud of.