INSPECTORS have upgraded the "inadequate" inspection rating for Worcestershire's hospitals trust and noted improvements in Kidderminster's surgery services.

The Care Quality Commission has today published a report confirming "significant improvements" at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust during its latest inspection in May and June this year.

As a result, the trust is now "required improvement" instead of the "inadequate" rating it was given in 2018. The trust received a "good" rating in the effective and caring categories.

Although the CQC highlighted that more improvement is still needed, the chief inspector of hospitals has recommended that the trust is removed from special measures once a system-wide package from NHS England is agreed and in place.

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Until then, it remains in special measures - an enforcement that has been in place for almost four years.

Professor Ted Baker, CQC chief inspector for hospitals, said: "Staff and leaders at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals can be proud of the progress achieved. Our inspectors saw good and improved practice across the trust."

Most concerns raised at Kidderminster Hospital and Treatment Centre are said to have been addressed, particularly in the hospital's surgery services.

Staff were found to be well qualified, working in appropriate premises and treated patients with empathy and respect.

At the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch, the hospital's outpatient services were found to support patients to make informed decisions about their care.

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It planned services effectively to meet local people's needs, the CQC said, and inspectors observed examples of outstanding practice in the hospital's diagnostic imaging.

Mr Baker said: "However, work was required to ensure people always had timely access to the right care, including in emergency care at Worcestershire Royal Hospital. Some staff needed safeguarding and infection protection training, and staffing levels in some departments were not always adequate. Leaders were implementing improvement strategies, but these plans needed more time to take full effect.

“I am recommending that Worcestershire Acute Hospitals exits special measures, but only once NHS England/Improvement put in place a system-wide support package, agreed with us, which ensures that the trust, with the support of its system partners, is able to continue to build on the progress already made.”

The trust has been told to make further improvements by ensuring staff complete required training, including for safeguarding and life support, and by assessing patient clinical need and delivering care within defined timescales, including ensuring cancer patients receive their first treatment within 62 days of an urgent GP referral.

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It must also ensure all departments are adequately staffed, complete mortality reviews within 30 days, ensure ambulance handovers are timely and effective and that patients are assessed in a timely manner, and ensure staff comply with hand hygiene and personal protective guidelines.

Inspectors noticed shortfalls in the reporting of all mixed sex breaches and in maintaining confidentiality in patient records.

Trust chief executive Matthew Hopkins said the improved rating is "well-deserved recognition for the hard work and dedication of staff across all the trust’s hospitals".

He said: "When I joined the Trust at the start of this year, I was immediately struck by the quality and the commitment of colleagues across our hospitals.

"It is their focus on continuous improvement, and their growing confidence in their ability to tackle the challenges we face that has made the difference.

“Today we have taken a really important step forward. We know we have a lot more to do, but these improved ratings are a clear and very encouraging sign that our efforts are paying off.

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“That is good news for our patients, good news for our staff and good news for everyone in the communities we care for.

“Our trust has been in special measures since December 2015 so this is important recognition that we are now able to find our own solutions to the challenges we face.”

Mr Hopkins added: "“Improving patient flow is essential if we are to ease the pressure on our emergency departments, reduce waits and improve ambulance handovers."

He said improvements had already been made in other areas identified, including improvement mandatory training compliance.

He added: "We are working hard to put plans in place that will support continuous improvement and sustainability to quality and safety, help our clinical services adapt to meet the changing needs of local people and enable us to live within our means and free up the funding we need to invest in further improvements.

“There is a lot we have to do, but today’s report is proof that together, our people can deliver the hospital services that local people want and deserve.

"We are very proud of today’s success, and will use it to build an even better future.”