Hospital trust placed in ‘special measures’

NMAC11-1277-5''Kings Mill Hospital
NMAC11-1277-5''Kings Mill Hospital

The foundation trust that runs King’s Mill Hospital has been placed in ‘special measures’ following a review triggered by its higher than expected mortality rates.

Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is one of 14 trusts that Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has ordered to improve after their failings were highlighted by Prof Sir Bruce Keogh in his newly-published report - 11 of these being put in special measures.

In his speech to Parliament, Mr Hunt said that patients treated at the Trust told of ‘being unaware of who was caring for them, of buzzers going unanswered and poor attention being paid to oral hygiene’.

Sir Bruce’s report, which was commissioned in the wake of the Mid Staffordshire hospitals crisis, found that there were a ‘significant backlog of complaints’ at Sherwood Forest as well as a ‘significant backlog in discharge letters and clinic appointments’.

Significant concerns around staffing levels at King’s Mill and Newark Hospitals were raised, and also around the nursing skill mix, with the ratio of trained to untrained nurses found to be too low.

The Trust was also found to be lacking a patient engagement strategy or systems to engage with and obtain fedback from patients and act upon it, and the absence of a strong strategic direction.

New chief executive Paul O’Connor told Chad that he welcomed the report and accepts there are 13 key areas that they need to improve in.

“I think it’s also important to make sure that everyone gets a full sense of the report,” he said.

“Clearly there are a number of negatives that we have to deal with, however what the report also says about us is that all staff who were met were engaging, committed and loyal to the Trust.

“It also says that our staff were willing to go the extra mile for the patient.

“Staff are loyal, passionate and dedicated. Generally patients felt they were given very good care once they were seen.”

Though Sherwood Forest was investigated due to its above expected mortality rates, Mr O’Connor was keen to emphasise that the report identifies no evidence of harm to patients being caused and no reference to its mortality rates.

But he said he ‘fully understood’ why Monitor has placed the trust in special measures.

The health sector regulator has served notice on six NHS foundation trusts that they will be put in special measures to fix new failings in patient care and hospital governance identified by Sir Bruce. Five were already in special measures.

One of the main reasons that Sherwood Forest is failing is due to its governance and leadership problems, such as the instability at board level characterised by a high turnover of chief executive officers in recent years.

Mr O’Connor said that he is here ‘for the long haul’ adding that you cannot change a big, complex organisation ‘overnight’.

“Fundamentally these are great hospitals. it’s just about having the strength of leadership to bring these issues together,” he said.

As a result of the reviews, the NHS Trust Development Authority and Monitor have placed all 14 Trusts on notice to fulfill all the recommendations made about their hospitals.

All will be inspected again within the next year by the new Chief Inspector of Hospitals, Professor Sir Mike Richards.

As one of the trusts in special measures, Sherwood Forest will have an external team sent in to help it improve and will be partnered with high-performing NHS organisation to provide mentorship and guidance.

It will have to accept binding undertakings that they will deliver the Keogh action plan by a set date.