The Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has been rated overall as ‘Good’ but is struggling to cope with the sheer number of emergency cases.
Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspectors, who carried out the planned inspection in February 2016, found the Countess itself ‘requires improvement’ while its Ellesmere Port Hospital site was rated ‘good’.
Across both Chester and Ellesmere Port hospitals, seven core services were rated ‘good’ including urgent and emergency services, medical and older people’s care, surgery, critical care, maternity and gynaecology, services for children and young people and outpatients and diagnostic imaging.
One service, end-of-life care, was rated as ‘requires improvement’.
Although urgent and emergency services were overall rated as ‘Good’, A & E waiting times regularly breached the 95% national target for admitting, transferring or discharging patients within four hours.
The trust will be implementing improvements in relation to:
■ Managing bed pressures to reduce the impact on hospital access and patient flow
■ Strengthening its strategic approach with end-of-life care
■ Addressing staffing shortages and reducing dependency on bank and agency spend in some areas
■ Management of records, particularly in relation to detailing nutrition and hydration on surgical wards
■ Compliance with safeguarding training in line with best practice
Professor Sir Mike Richards, Chief Inspector of Hospitals, said: “Overall, The Countess of Chester NHS Foundation Trust provides good care to the population it serves. The trust should be proud of its rating.”
He added: “Inspectors noted a shortage of paediatric and palliative care consultants. However, in respect of paediatric cover, work was already underway to address the shortfall. I am sure the trust will be just as successful in meeting staffing levels in palliative care.
“It is encouraging that the trust continues to actively recruit nurses both locally and from overseas. At the time of our inspection the trust had successfully recruited between 20 and 30 registered nurses from Spain. In 2015, the trust had experienced shortages in midwifery. It is clear that the trust was proactively addressing staff shortages. At the time of our inspection there were sufficient numbers of consultants and medical staff to provide patients with appropriate care and treatment.
“However, the trust must continue to work closely with its partners to address the issues relating to patient access and flow into and across services. I have confidence that The Countess of Chester NHS Foundation Trust will continue to improve and I look forward to reading their next report.”
Areas of outstanding practice highlighted included: innovation in stroke services, the role of care and comfort workers in assisting patients with nutrition and hydration needs and morning team briefings in theatre areas to highlight issues or safety concerns.
Chief executive Tony Chambers said: “To see the pride that Countess staff have for their work and this hospital recognised and reiterated throughout this report is truly uplifting. This inspection took place during our busiest and most challenging winter months. Throughout it all our workforce maintained focus, morale, professionalism and dedication to their patients.
“While we have been rated as ‘good’ overall, the report has also reinforced our own sense of what we need to strengthen and improve. It provides a spotlight for patient flow, access and end of life care across the health system.”
The full report, including ratings, is available by clicking here.