Harrogate district NHS Trust rated 'outstanding' for care

CEO Ros Tolcher and the leaders of the departments which were rated outstanding.
CEO Ros Tolcher and the leaders of the departments which were rated outstanding.

A major report has rated Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust as ‘good’ overall and ‘outstanding’ for care following the hospital’s first official inspection by the health watchdog.

Patients, staff and families have been commended and thanked for their input into the major inspection by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

The CQC visited the trust in February earlier this year and published the positive report yesterday.

Of five key areas asking if the trust is effective, safe, caring, responsive, and well-led, the CQC rated the trust as ‘outstanding’ in caring, noting that staff took ‘extra steps’ to improve patients experience.

The trust’s Chief Executive Ros Tolcher joined the trust in August 2014 and has expressed her pride in the staff and in the results of the report.

She said: “I’m fantastically proud, its a huge tribute to the calibre of the staff who work in this organisation and to their commitment, but actually to be rated outstanding overall for care, for patients its one of the things that matters the most to them - to know that when they come and have care from us they’re going to be treated with dignity and respect, we’re going to involve them in conversations about them and that they are going to be cared for by staff who really are very caring.

“We’d like to express our thanks to the patients and their families who contributed, the CQC commented they had one of the highest response rates to their comments cards so a big thank you to them and of course a huge thank you to our staff who flowed gracefully through this entire inspection.”

The trust was also recognised as ‘good’ in being effective, responsive and well-led but was told that it ‘requires improvements’ in some areas to make it safer.

Summarising inspectors’ findings, the report found that ‘staffing was an issue across some areas’ but also recognised that ‘steps were taken to reduce risk and the impact on patient care’.

For the Chief Executive, however, many of the areas which were earmarked for improvement are areas where the trust had already spotted a weakness.

Mrs Tolcher said: “I think it’s really important to emphasise that overall the CQC rated the trust as good, there are some areas where we have got more work to do to hit the rating of being good or outstanding, what I was very reassured about throughout the inspection and in receiving the report was the issues the CQC picked up were issues that were already known to us and many of them were things we had told them about.

“People who use the services can be reassured to know that the trust does have insight, it does know where the weaknesses are and does have arrangements in place to make sure its safe for people receiving care.

Mrs Tolcher said she had also been keen to find out if the CQC had reached conclusions about areas requiring improvement because harm was being done to patients.

She said: “They were very clear there are no areas that were picked up where patients were suffering a harm, what they’re saying is your systems and policies or staffing levels need to be made safer to take that risk away.

“These are smoke detectors if you like, they are early warning indicators that actually things need improvement to be assured that it is safe all of the time.

“It was a number of relatively low level small things to do with safety that added up to give a requires improvement rating rather than a big shock horror.”

This has been the first officially validated CQC report the trust has been given, and follows only a ‘pilot’ inspection in 2013, when the CQC selected a number of trusts to test their current method of assessment.

It is unclear yet when the next CQC inspection will be undertaken at the trust here in the district, as Mrs Tolcher explains the commission is undergoing changes of its own.

She said: “The CQC has had funding cuts just like every other part of the NHS and they are looking at passing the cost of being inspected on to the organisations themselves.

“I believe they’re also going to do targeted visits on specific service areas so rather than the huge inspection which is very resource intensive, they will go back and look at individual areas where there was a concern and probably introduce an element of self assessment by trusts.

“It could be three or four years or it could be that there isn’t a full all inclusive inspection again.”

But despite the time frame of when the trust will next be scrutinised, it is clear that the hard work to constantly improve and continue the outstanding achievements will not stop.

Mrs Tolcher said: “My ambition is always that we create the conditions to be outstanding in all areas all of the time, and it’s nice when the CQC comes in and holds up the mirror and says actually you are outstanding for caring and you’re good overall, we mustn’t lose sight of the fact though that we are providing services 24/7 365 days of the year and we don’t just turn on the lights when the CQC comes in.”