Colchester hospital chiefs respond to damning CQC report

CHUFT leadership team (from left) chairman Alan Rose, medical director Angela Tillett, chief executi

CHUFT leadership team (from left) chairman Alan Rose, medical director Angela Tillett, chief executive Frank Sims, and director of nursing Barbara Stuttle. - Credit: Gregg Brown

The new permanent chief executive of the trust running Colchester’s NHS hospitals said he was disappointed by the Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) assessment – but added he welcomed the report as a “blueprint for improvements”.

CHUFT chief executive Frank Sims

CHUFT chief executive Frank Sims - Credit: Gregg Brown

Frank Sims took over as head of the Colchester Hospital University Foundation NHS Trust on October 19 last year, after the CQC inspection, and was the first permanent appointment to the post in more than two years.

He completed a set of new additions to the trust board, which for the first time in three years had no temporary or interim appointments.

Mr Sims said: “I welcome today’s reports because they provide an invaluable blueprint for the improvements we need to make to deliver the best possible care for patients, and for the trust to be upgraded and taken out of special measures.

“Every single thing in that report is fixable, and it is particularly fixable with the quality of staff we have got.

“When I walk around Colchester General Hospital and talk to patients, I see many examples of our hard-working staff delivering really good care.

“I want all of our patients to receive the best care possible and it is clear from today’s reports we’ve not been delivering that consistently.

Most Read

“After the CQC inspection, we took immediate action to make real improvements – hiring more doctors and nurses, reducing the number of people waiting for procedures in areas such as dermatology, and introducing new levels of maintenance for equipment. As a result, complaints are starting to fall.

“There is clearly much more to do, but I hope patients who are using our services are already starting to see improvement.”

Barbara Stuttle, director of nursing, added: “As the longest serving board member, having been here for about a year, I would like to apologise to any patient who had the misfortune not to receive consistent care. Any one of us is mortified that maybe at times we did not offer the care we should have done.”

Mr Sims also highlighted some of the positive points made within the report, including 13 good ratings with a good overall rating for children’s services.

The CQC found “the trust employed staff were highly motivated and were working through many issues to drive improvements locally”, and praised innovation in areas such as midwifery.

A series of “Ask and Act” workshops will involve staff from all levels in the improvement plan, with Mr Sims saying: “I want this organisation to be led from the frontline.”

Reaction came to the latest Care Quality Commission report from a number sources.

In a statement, the trust’s own Council of Governors said: “We are disappointed the latest reports do not reflect the positive and significant improvements already made at the trust since 2013.

“The findings are at variance with what we constantly hear about patients’ experience.

“While there are problems we do hear about and rightly act on, there have been numerous reports since 2013 of excellent treatment and experience from patients and relatives.

“The report is likely to have a negative effect on the morale of our dedicated and loyal staff, which may create additional recruitment and retention obstacles.

“However, we accept the report highlights specific areas of concerns requiring immediate focus, which we believe would be best addressed in a single improvement plan.

“We have absolute confidence in the new leadership team which as a council we have been instrumental in developing.”

Sam Hepplewhite, chief officer at the North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “The CCG board has not had an opportunity to consider the detail of the report. However, we are very disappointed the trust remains in special measures and that the CQC found differing standards in the quality of care provided.

“This is clearly not acceptable and we will continue to work with the trust and partners to improve the situation. We will be meeting with the trust in February to get further assurance it has a credible improvement plan that will make real differences to services in the very near future.”

Tom Nutt, chief executive of Healthwatch Essex, said: “Some of the issues raised make for shocking reading. It is clear the hospital needs to take a different tack to its improvement journey.

“With us being here today, working alongside the trust, we will be speaking up for patients and making sure services are safe and effective.”

Witham MP Priti Patel said: “Many of my constituents have been concerned about the trust’s performance in recent years as successive reports highlight problems.

“With a stable leadership team now in place the trust must turn itself around.

“The improvements that have taken place since the inspection are welcome, and the motivation and improvements being driven forward have been commended by the CQC.

“But the trust still has a long way to go.

“It will need the support of other NHS trusts and local authorities to address the wider health issues creating pressures on services.”