A Teesside hospital trust is facing the double blow of being told to improve its performance, especially on nurse staffing levels, and that it must take action in infection control.
South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has today been rated “requires improvement” by the Care Quality Commission.
The trust also faces further action from the CQC’s fellow regulator Monitor, following an increase in patients getting infections in its hospitals.
“I am concerned that shortages of staff in some departments may affect patient care”
Monitor said in a statement today it was “stepping up” its regulatory action against the trust.
It comes after the South Tees “failed to act quickly enough to reduce the number of infections that patients acquire in its hospitals”, said the regulator.
The trust must develop and implement an “improved plan” to cut rates of C. difficile infection. It needs to report back to Monitor monthly and ensure the improvements are sustainable.
Monitor regional director Paul Chandler said: “The number of patients picking up infections in the trust’s hospitals has risen and we have taken further action to make sure the trust responds swiftly.
“The trust will get expert help to draw up and implement a plan for reducing the number of infections and make sustainable improvements for its patients,” he said.
The CQC has also published its inspection report of the trust today. Both the trust’s James Cook University Hospital and Friarage Hospital were rated “requires improvement” overall.
The trust was rated “requires improvement” for its safety and effectiveness, and “good” for being well led, responsive and caring. Its community services were also rated “good”.
Inspectors raised particular concern about nurse shortages, particularly in the accident and emergency departments, and medical and surgical wards.
In addition, nursing staff levels on the children’s wards of both hospitals and at the trust’s neonatal unit were below nationally recognised guidelines.
In their reports on the trust’s sites, they stated that the organisation needed to “ensure that there are sufficient numbers of suitably qualified and experienced staff”.
“We have already made significant improvements to staffing levels”
Staff attendance at mandatory training and subject specific training was also “low in some areas”, said the CQC. It said the trust must ensure that staff received support through appraisal and the completion of mandatory training, particularly on safeguarding and mental capacity.
CQC chief inspector of hospitals Sir Mike Richards acknowledged the trust was “going through significant period of change to restructure services”.
“However, I am concerned that shortages of staff in some departments may affect patient care,” he added. “While there have been moves to improve the recruitment process, the trust must continue to make this a priority.”
Trust chief executive Tricia Hart said in a statement that the organisation had “already made changes since the inspection but there are opportunities to further improve”.
“Since the CQC visit, we have already made significant improvements to staffing levels, particularly overnight, and continue to push hard on band 5 nurse recruitment, recently employing nurses from Italy, Portugal and Romania, although this does remain a national issue,” she said.
Professor Hart, a nurse by background, added that reducing hospital infections was “a top priority for the organisation”.