North Cumbria University Hospitals remains in special measures

West Cumberland Hospital West Cumberland Hospital, in Whitehaven, was found to be suffering serious staffing problems

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A struggling health trust is to remain in special measures, the NHS watchdog has confirmed.

The status was imposed on North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust in July over concerns about mortality rates and care standards.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) said there were "some signs of improvement", but called for further action.

In response, the trust said the report was "an important milestone in our improvement journey".

Staffing shortage

Inspectors visited the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle, West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven and the midwifery-led birthing service at Penrith Community Hospital in April and May.

They were concerned by a shortage of doctors and nurses at West Cumberland Hospital and the Cumberland Infirmary, with a "heavy reliance" on temporary staff.

Their report added patient flow was "poorly managed within the trust" leading to people being placed in wards which did not meet their needs.

CQC's chief inspector of hospitals, Professor Sir Mike Richards, said: "While we did see some signs of this improvement when we inspected, the trust still has a long way to go before it reaches the required standard.

"It should be noted that staff were seen to be compassionate and supportive, and that patients and relatives praised the staff for the commitment they showed to their work."

'Progress'

The trust said the report "clearly demonstrates the progress being made".

Chief executive Ann Farrar said: "What is clear from the CQC report is that some improvements, such as those relating medical records and outpatients, are within the gift of the trust to deliver.

"Other problems, such as those linked to recruitment, will require NHS system-wide solutions to ensure we can sustain services at West Cumberland Hospital and this must be addressed in the development of our five-year strategies with NHS Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group."

Cumbria's other health trust, University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, was placed in special measures last month following a CQC inspection.

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Areas for improvement:
  • Staffing levels must be addressed as a matter of urgency
  • Waiting times in and patient flow from A&E must be improved
  • Addressing the culture so the trust supports openness, transparency, and learning
  • Policies and procedures designed to support patient safety must be robust and must include a major incident plan for surgery
  • National guidelines must be followed regarding anaesthetist cover at all times for obstetrics at West Cumberland Hospital
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