New CQC report says St Albans City Hospital still requires improvements

St Albans City Hospital still requires improvements.

St Albans City Hospital still requires improvements. - Credit: Archant

Health bosses face additional challenges after an inspection report said St Albans City Hospital required further improvements, and the NHS trust running it must remain in special measures.

England’s chief inspector of hospitals, Professor Mike Richards, said he still had concerns about West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust (WHHT), which runs hospitals in St Albans, Watford and Hemel Hempstead, after the latest Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection gave it an overall rating of ‘requires improvement’.

It is only a small step forwards from the last report in September 2015, which slated both City and Watford as inadequate.

In a report released today Prof Richards said there were several areas of poor practice where the trust needed to make improvements, including overall leadership, the assessment of children in the urgent care centre and minor injury unit, the percentage of patients waiting to see a consultant with a suspected cancer after two weeks, and the time it took for ambulance crews to hand over patients to hospital care.

Significant improvements had been seen in some services since the last inspection, with outpatient services at St Albans City Hospital now rated as good, but other services had not made as much progress as expected. The report said staff had expressed how disappointed and upset they had been by the ratings following the previous inspection and going into special measures, but this had proved a catalyst for improvement and a renewed pride in their work.

Prof Richards added: “On the basis of this inspection, I have recommended that the trust remains in special measures.”

St Albans MP Anne Main said: “Whilst there have been welcomed improvements, there still are challenges ahead and a mountain to climb.

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“As the report shows, clearly there are still major problems with the A&E at Watford. The delays in discharge seem to be a key factor in the A&E’s poor performance. The CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group) and the county council, who are responsible for social and elderly care, need to get round the table and sort out the issues. We need to ensure patients can leave hospital as soon as possible with a proper care package.

“It was heartening to again see that the staff in our hospitals were praised for their hard and diligent work. The areas that did register improvement show that there is a positive direction of travel, but poor patients who are affected in the struggling areas of the health service are the ones that suffer.”

Trust chief executive Katie Fisher said: “We have taken on board the comments from inspectors and have already made changes to our procedures as well as the leadership arrangements.”

Trust chairman Professor Steve Barnett added: “I am delighted with the overall results and even prouder of our staff who continue to drive up the quality of patient care with such great commitment.

“The inspection in September was just one step in our journey to raise our standards higher still. Nearly seven months have passed and if the CQC visited us now, I’m confident they would see many more improvements resulting in an even better set of ratings.”