An NHS hospital trust which became the first to be run by a private operator before it pulled out has been told it “requires improvement” by the healthcare regulator - a step up from the “inadequate” rating it was previously given.
Hinchingbrooke Health Care NHS Trust in Huntingdon was taken over by Circle Holdings in 2012 but the company announced it was pulling out of the deal in January, hours before the release of a highly critical report by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
Inspectors uncovered a number of serious concerns about staffing, risks to patient safety - particularly in the casualty department - and medical care as well as further issues relating to the way in which the trust was run. It also became the first trust in England to be rated inadequate for caring.
A follow-up inspection by the CQC since it has been back under NHS management has found it to have made improvements - but England’s Chief Inspector of Hospitals, Professor Sir Mike Richards, said he is not recommending it comes out of special measures.
Sir Mike said: “When we returned to inspect Hinchingbrooke Health Care NHS Trust we found a number of improvements had been made on the Apple Tree and Juniper Wards, at Hinchingbrooke Hospital.
“We were pleased the trust had acted swiftly to make improvements to these wards and to safety in the emergency department.
“However, these changes need to be sustained and embedded.
“I am not recommending the trust comes out of special measures at this stage and our inspectors will return to check on what further improvements have been made at a later date.
“The trust knows what it needs to do to make further improvements and ensure those already made are maintained.”
In response to the publication of the latest CQC report, Hisham Abdel-Rahman, chief executive officer of Hinchingbrooke Health Care NHS Trust said: “Today’s report from the CQC recognises the ongoing hard work and effort of staff here at Hinchingbrooke to make sure we provide high quality and safe services for all our patients, day and night.
“I am pleased that our overall rating has improved and that over half of all the areas inspected are now rated as ‘good’.”
“The services and areas which were inspected during this limited January inspection have all seen their ratings improve.
“Those areas which were not inspected, such as whether we were ‘well-led’, continue to reflect their rating from last September.
“At the time of this inspection we had completed around one-third of our action plan to address the CQC’s concerns. We have now passed two-thirds of our milestones and have a firm plan in place to resolve all outstanding issues as soon as possible.”
“We are absolutely committed to becoming one of the top 10 NHS district general hospitals in the country. To do this, we must continue to improve in many areas, not simply to address the concerns of the CQC, but so ‘good’ becomes a minimum and ‘excellent’ becomes the standard.
“We appreciate the ongoing support of the Trust Development Authority, local partners and our community during this time.”