Colchester: Hospital boss promises swift action on Keogh Report

Colchester General Hospital

Colchester General Hospital - Credit: Andrew Partridge

Colchester’s hospital boss last night apologised to patients that were “let down” in the past and vowed to improve.

Chief executive of Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust, Dr Gordon Coutts, made the comments after the publication of the Keogh Report on Colchester General Hospital, Essex County Hospital and a host of other failing authorities across the country.

The report calls for the Essex hospitals to improve in six priority areas including the handling of complaints, the assessment of skills among staff and its end of life provision.

It also urges further focus on quality at the trust, the empowerment of clinical leadership and improvements in staff communications.

But the report also refers to “great examples of excellent care being delivered to patients,” and “a large number of committed and enthusiastic staff who were keen to give their best for patients”.

The review, led by Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS England medical director, reviewed the quality of the care and treatment being provided by 14 hospital trusts in England, including Colchester Hospital Trust.

Dr Gordon Coutts, said the report was “fair”.

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“We accept the report, which identifies a number of areas that require us to take action.

“However, it also confirms that overall both of our hospitals are improving. We understand that we need to make further changes and go on improving.”

“The review gave us a welcome opportunity to pause and reflect on our work, and to focus on building on the progress we have made in recent years.

Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust was among only three trust under review that were not recommended to be put in special measures.

Mr Coutts added: “I accept that in some cases we have not provided the best possible care across every ward or department in our hospitals and I apologise on behalf of the Trust to any patients we have let them down.

“We recognise that there are steps that we need to take quickly to address the concerns raised by the review. An action plan is in place, which we are already implementing and we will continue to strive to be at our best consistently.

“I particularly welcome the positive comments about our staff. The review is spot-on when it says the ‘workforce is committed, loyal, passionate, caring and motivated’. With their help we are confident that we can make the necessary improvements.

“The public and patients can be assured that the Trust and its staff will continue to put patients, their safety and wellbeing at the heart of everything they do.”

Dr Coutts thanked the patients and members of the public who contributed to the review, including the 50 people who met members of the review team at “listening events” in Colchester and Clacton. The review received 277 comments relating to patient feedback, of which 165 were positive.

The review panel spent two days at Colchester Hospital Trust on June 4and 5 and also made a 3½ hour unannounced visit on the evening of 11 June.

Some members of the panel, including its Chair Liz Redfern, Chief Nurse for NHS England South, attended a Risk Summit held on July 2 at the offices of NHS England (Midlands and East) in Fulbourn, near Cambridge, at which the Trust’s action plan was finalised.

Part of the risk summit was filmed and has been posted today on the NHS Choices website.

In it, Ms Redfern says the Trust had made huge improvements in the past three years. She said the panel had been impressed by staff of all disciplines, who she described as committed, enthusiastic and wanting to do the right thing.

The review had knocked the Trust’s confidence and it was a shame that the level of pace and improvements had slowed as a result of the review, she added.


Among the reports published on the NHS Choices website ( is an action plan which sets out agreed actions to address at Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust.

These include:

• Quality focus – Quality focus in the Trust needs further development and an underpinning strategy

• Clinical leadership – The Trust needs to empower clinical leadership through an improved governance and organisational structure, and leadership development

• Deteriorating patients – Processes to recognise and step up care for patients whose health deteriorating are not operating as effectively as they could

• Communication and engagement with staff – the Trust needs to continue to listen to staff

• Staffing and skill mix – nursing staffing levels and skill mix review needs to be regularised

• Complaints – Complaints management processes need urgent improvement.