A “marked contrast” between the quality of mental health and community services has been identified by inspectors at a trust in the East Midlands.
The Care Quality Commission handed Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust an overall rating of “requires improvement”, following an inspection in February.
“The trust was not providing sufficient training for its staff and not ensuring that all staff received regular supervision”
However, while community services were mostly marked as in need of improvement and short of nursing staff, mental health wards for older people and substance misuse services were found to be “outstanding”.
The CQC also said it found a committed and caring workforce and heard a lot of positive feedback from patients and carers.
The trust provides a mix of community health and mental health services to a population of 629,000, covering Northampton, Kettering, Corby, Wellingborough and Rushden.
The CQC has published 17 separate reports on the services provided by the trust in hospitals, in clinics, and in the community.
While two of the mental health core services were judged to be “outstanding”, all of the community health services were in need of improvement.
The trust had 12% of staff posts vacant at the time of the inspection. There were particular shortages of community nursing staff and therapists.
The trust had taken some steps to limit the impact of these staff shortages and was in the process of recruiting more staff, noted the CQC.
In addition, the regulator found some of the ward environments were not safe, including three seclusion rooms that did not fully meet current standards.
“Our rating reflects the journey we and many other NHS trusts are on in delivering consistent quality care for our patients in the face of many complex challenges”
Meanwhile, it warned that patients at risk might not always be fully protected at the trust’s Quayside rehabilitation unit, on both child and adolescent mental health wards and in the gardens at St Mary’s Hospital.
In contrast, inspectors said they heard positive feedback from patients and carers across the trust. Treatment was delivered in a sensitive and dignified manner and staff were dedicated and kind.
The older people’s mental health inpatient service at the Forest Centre was commended by inspectors due to its state of the art facilities, excellent use of therapeutic tools and the involvement of patients with their own care.
Despite the problems identified, the inspectors concluded that trust managers demonstrated a determination to improve the quality of care provided.
Dr Paul Lelliott, CQC deputy chief inspector of hospitals and lead for mental health, said the quality of services currently provided by the trust was “patchy”.
“We have told the trust that it must make a number improvements to bring its services overall up to a level that would earn a rating of ‘good’,” he said.
“In particular, the trust was not providing sufficient training for its staff and not ensuring that all staff received regular supervision. Also, clinical staff were not always maintaining high quality patient records,” he added.
The trust’s chief executive Angela Hillery said: “Our rating reflects the journey we and many other NHS trusts are on in delivering consistent quality care for our patients in the face of many complex challenges – this is the same rating achieved by two thirds of community and mental health trusts.
“We are confident that we are responding to all concerns raised by the CQC,” she said. “Since receiving their initial feedback we have begun taking action as part of our commitment to continuous improvement.”