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'Remarkable' trust given regulator’s top rating

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Northumbria Healthcare Foundation Trust has become the fourth in the country to be rated outstanding by the Care Quality Commission.

Twenty of the trust’s core services received the top rating – the most awarded to any trust to date. The CQC called the level of consistency in outstanding ratings “remarkable” and “a first” for the NHS.

“The most remarkable finding to me was the consistency of the outstanding ratings”

Mike Richards

The trust was inspected by the CQC in November and December.

In its inspection report, published today, the regulator has rated Northumbria as outstanding in four of its five domains – caring, effective, responsive and well led.

All four of Northumbria’s main hospitals were rated “outstanding” by the regulator.

The CQC said it had found “inspirational leadership and strong clinical engagement” at the trust. A recent acute services reconfiguration, which culminated with the opening of a new emergency care hospital at Cramlington in June, “had been managed effectively”.

Inspectors found there was “strong integration” between the trust’s hospital and community services, with the latter also rated as “outstanding”.

In addition, the CQC highlighted that staff “delivered compassionate care, which was polite and respectful, going out of their way to overcome obstacles to ensure this”. It also noted that the trust used advance nurse practitioners to support doctors.

“Every employee of Northumbria Healthcare should be rightfully proud”

David Evans

Professor Sir Mike Richards, the CQC’s chief inspector of hospitals, said Northumbria was “one of the best” trusts in England, and added that its community services for children and young people being outstanding in all domains was “very rare”.

“The most remarkable finding to me was the consistency of the outstanding ratings across all four hospital locations and across community services,” Sir Mike said. “To achieve this across so many sites is truly remarkable and is a first.”

He added: “The opening of the specialist emergency care hospital last year has enabled the trust to introduce a new model of care, with improved pathways for patients in emergency, maternity and medical and surgical care.

“This had meant different ways of working for some staff,” he said. “The strong leadership and clinical engagement has ensured that this change had been managed extremely well and effectively.

“We found that staff felt fully informed about all the changes which had taken place and were proud of the hospital and the care it provided to the local community and beyond,” said Sir Mike.

The CQC did identify some areas where Northumbria needed to make improvements. It asked the trust to ensure its clinical strategy met recommendations from NHS England’s national maternity review, as well as making improvements to the storage of emergency drugs and improving the entrance and exit to its new birthing centre.

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

‘Remarkable’ trust given regulator’s top rating

David Evans

David Evans, Northumbria’s chief executive, said he was “delighted” with the CQC’s findings, which he said were the result of clinical ownership and an “open culture” at the trust.

“The care and compassion shown by our workforce touches people’s lives on a daily basis and every employee of Northumbria Healthcare should be rightfully proud of the great value they bring to our local communities and the people we serve,” he said in a statement.

Until November last year, Northumbria Healthcare was run by Jim Mackey, who is now the chief executive of the new regulatory body NHS Improvement.

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