New figures show massive improvements at Colchester Hospital but leaders ‘not resting on laurels’

Colchester General Hospital. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

Colchester General Hospital. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

Colchester Hospital is continuing to go from strength from strength since coming out of special measures, latest NHS figures reveal.

Colchester Hospital boss Nick Hulme. Picture: GEMMA MITCHELL

Colchester Hospital boss Nick Hulme. Picture: GEMMA MITCHELL - Credit: Archant

Chief executive Nick Hulme, who has been instrumental in the turnaround, said spirits were high within the trust, but assured leaders were “not resting on our laurels”.

At the end of last year, Colchester came out of special measures for the first time in four years and had its rating lifted from ‘inadequate’ to ‘requires improvement’.

New winter pressure statistics show Colchester managed to achieve some of the best ambulance handover results in the country last week, despite the severe weather conditions.

Between February 26 and March 4, just four ambulance crews had to wait longer than half an hour to off-load patients at A&E, with none facing delays of over an hour.

Figures also show patients attending Colchester’s emergency department are getting faster care.

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In September 2015, the trust’s A&E had the longest waiting times in the country, with just 77.3% of patients seen within four hours of arrival.

But in February this year, Colchester hit 91.8% – still below the 95% NHS standard but a massive improvement.

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Meanwhile, a report by Blackwater Law has found Colchester Hospital is recording fewer serious incidents needing investigation.

In 2016/17, the trust logged 130 of these events, a drop from 147 the previous financial year.

Mr Hulme said there was now “more optimism” within the trust, with staff making patients their absolute focus.

“We stopped concentrating on being obsessed with getting out of special measures and just concentrated on improving care,” he added.

Mr Hulme extended his role from Ipswich Hospital to Colchester in May 2016 along with chairman David White and the two trusts are set to merge this summer.

This partnership has helped to drive improvements, Mr Hulme said, which have been made possible with “very little if any additional funding”.

Reflecting on challenges ahead, Mr Hulme said Colchester needed to raise its cancer performance and staff engagement, and still had work to do in A&E.

He added: “I think we’ve got to continue to improve, we can’t rest on our laurels.

“I think we need to do more with our community partners to find other ways to care for people because we can’t cope with the numbers coming through certainly next winter if the increase is the same as this winter, and to make sure we can make the merger a success, not that we just merge the organisations but we get some benefit to patients from merging the organisations.”

Colchester’s next inspection by the Care Quality Commission will be as a merged organisation with Ipswich, and Mr Hulme said his aspiration was to achieve ‘good’ with areas of ‘outstanding’ service.

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