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Struggling Shropshire hospital trust placed in ‘special measures’

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Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust has been placed in special measures to address serious safety issues including staffing shortages and concerns about the quality of maternity and urgent care.

The trust, which is at the centre of an investigation into baby deaths, will now receive extra help and funding to support a programme of improvements.

The move follows ongoing concern about the trust’s performance in key areas including governance, workforce and whistleblowing issues as well as safety concerns in maternity and emergency care.

Last month, the Care Quality Commission placed conditions on the trust’s registration following inspections in August and September, which revealed ongoing issues with foetal monitoring and the treatment of those at risk of sepsis.

The full findings of those inspections have yet to be made public but NHS Improvement announced yesterday the trust, currently rated requires improvement, would enter special measures.

The system regulator said the decision would mean enhanced support, including external buddying, additional funding and strengthened oversight arrangements.

This is on top of support NHS Improvement has provided so far, which has included the appointment of an improvement director and introduction of a safety oversight and assurance group.

“The time has come to ramp up our help by placing the trust in special measures”

Ian Dalton

NHS Improvement’s involvement has also led to training for board members on Freedom to Speak Up and help with devising a long-term workforce strategy to address high vacancy levels.

Earlier this year, Nursing Times reported on a spate of nurse resignations from the trust’s under pressure A&E departments at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital and Princess Royal Hospital.

“While Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust has been working through its many challenges, it is important that the trust is able to deliver the high quality care that patients deserve,” said NHS Improvement chief executive Ian Dalton.

“The time has come to ramp up our help by placing the trust in special measures,” he said.

The trust is currently the subject of an independent review into baby deaths, baby injuries and maternal deaths, commissioned by government in 2017 and led by midwife Donna Ockenden.

In August it was announced this would be expanded to encompass more than 40 cases but it is now thought more than 100 may be considered.

Trust chief executive Simon Wright said the organisation was striving to address long-standing problems in the way services were delivered.

“These issues have been many years in the making. This is a huge challenge and putting things right is not an easy matter,” he said.

“This is a huge challenge and putting things right is not an easy matter”

Simon Wright

He said he welcomed the decision to place the trust in special measures and the extra support that would mean for trust leadership but acknowledged the move would inevitably cause anxiety among patients and staff.

“I am not denying that SaTH is facing challenges. The board has been shining a spotlight on them for many months and, in some cases, years,” he said.

“However, we know and I know that our staff provide great care day in, day out,” said Mr Wright.

He added: “On that note it is important that we don’t lose sight of all the really great work that happens at SaTH every single day.”

He went on to highlight areas of good performance including the organisation was in the top 20% of trusts when it came to ensuring patients waited no longer than 18 weeks from GP referral to treatment and 99% of patients received diagnostic tests within the national six week target.

Meanwhile, in the latest survey of women’s experiences of maternity care, published by the CQC, the trust scored eight out f 10 or higher in 42 out of 51 categories.

“There is evidence of a really good hospital trust, filled with really talented and dedicated people, everywhere I look,” said Mr Wright.

“We know there is a lot more work to do and there is a long and, no doubt at times, challenging time ahead, but we are confident that we will deliver,” he noted.

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