Inspectors’ damning report branding Colchester General Hospital ‘inadequate’ is not balanced say hospital chiefs

Colchester General Hospital is preparing to open their new Radiotherapy Centre.

Colchester General Hospital is preparing to open their new Radiotherapy Centre. - Credit: Su Anderson

A report by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has rated Colchester General Hospital as inadequate – but health chiefs say the report is “not balanced”.

Briefing into the CQC report about Colchester General Hospital. (from left) Tom Nutt, chief operatin

Briefing into the CQC report about Colchester General Hospital. (from left) Tom Nutt, chief operating officer Healthwatch Essex, Peter Wilson, CHUFT interim chairman, Dr Lucy Moore, interim CHUFT chief executive, and Dr Shane Gordon, chief clinical officer of North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group, Barbara Stuttle, director of nursing, CHUFT, Lisa Llewelyn, director of nursing and quality, NEE CCG - Credit: Archant

It follows two unannounced inspections made on the hospital’s accident and emergency department (A&E) and the emergency admissions unit (EAU) in November last year.

A series of failings were highlighted in the quality of care, and was the trigger for the hospital’s internal major incident to deal with extra pressure on the service.

Inspectors said had the hospital not already been in special measures, the visit would have prompted such a move. The hospital was previously rated as “requires improvement”.

Dr Lucy Moore, interim chief executive of the Colchester Hospital University Foundation NHS Trust (CHUFT), which runs the hospital, said: “This board acknowledges the report shows care below the expected standard, and we apologise to patients we let down. Significant improvements are required, and this will take some time.

“Being busy is never a reason to provide poor care.

“However we are concerned the report is not balanced and does not reflect the unprecedented pressure we were under, or the considerable progress and improvement made over the past 12 months.”

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Dr Moore was also concerned that the lowest rating in one area of the hospital, emergency care, does not warrant the inadequate rating for the entire hospital.

CHUFT leaders also fear the report’s negative impact could prevent them recruiting the 150 nurses it vitally needs to boost staffing levels.

Their views were yesterday backed by Dr Shane Gordon, chief clinical officer at the North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group, and Tom Nutt, chief operating officer at Healthwatch Essex, who said his organisation would be a “critical friend”.

Dr Gordon said: “I’m somewhat frustrated that through mathematics the CQC feel it necessary to downgrade the organisation.”

The key findings of the CQC report included:

• Staff were exceptionally busy and therefore did not always come across as caring or treat patients with dignity and respect.

• The dignity of the deceased or dying was not always respected.

• The department was not always clean and staff did not adopt good hand hygiene.

• Staffing levels on EAU were not sufficient.

• Surges in activity meant people had long waits.

• Care in the emergency department did not always adhere to guidelines.

• Staff morale was very low and stress levels were high.

Inspectors had to escalate care of four patients who were deteriorating, and the report said: “The department had surges of activity, which occurred on a regular and potentially anticipatory basis.”

The CQC has made a series of recommendations for improvements, and has informed Monitor of its findings.

A CQC spokesman said: “CQC’s purpose is to ensure people receive care that is safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led.

“We carried out our inspection at Colchester General Hospital in response to concerns raised relating to the A&E and the EAU. This inspection focused on these two departments.

“It was carried out over two days in November and one in December, and our report details what we found during those visits to the hospital.

“We took action following those inspections to ensure patients were protected from unsafe care. Our inspections and reports aim to help hospitals improve.

“Reports highlight good as well as poor practice.

“We submit our reports to hospitals before publication so they have the opportunity give feedback on the factual accuracy of these reports. This can lead to amendments being made to our reports, where needed and appropriate.

“CHUFT was no exception and was able to give feedback on our report in advance of its publication.”

What the MPs say:

Witham MP Priti Patel said: “The outcome of the most recent CQC inspection is disappointing. The trust will now need to crack on with implementing the improvements the CQC require so patients can be assured they will receive the best care possible.

“Many of my constituents receive excellent care at the hospital and I commend the trust’s hardworking staff. I want to see the trust move forward so all patients receive excellent care and this cycle of concerning reports from the CQC is brought to an end.”

Bernard Jenkin, Harwich and North Essex MP, added: “To an extent this report is already history. As soon as the major incident was declared they were addressing all these points.

“This is not the time to make a political football out of Colchester Hospital, though I don’t think anybody is locally.”