The Care Quality Commission has recommended University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust is taken out of the “special measures” support scheme for failing health service organisations.
The trust’s rating has been upgraded to “requires improvement” following an inspection in July. It had been rated “inadequate” after a previous visit in 2014.
“Steps have been taken to strengthen the way the trust is run and the way it manages risks to patient safety”
The CQC said staffing levels had increased in key areas, while the executive team had stabilised and was “more visible and accessible to staff”. Since October 2014 the trust has recruited 200 more staff.
Of the trust’s three main sites, Furness General Hospital and the Royal Lancaster Infirmary were rated as “requires improvement”, while Westmorland General Hospital was “good”.
The regulator said it was also happy that “steady progress” was being made to meet the recommendations made by Bill Kirkup in March, following his investigation into failings within the trust’s maternity services.
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However, staffing levels on two wards at Royal Lancaster Infirmary were still “variable”, the CQC inspectors found, and there was a reliance on bank and agency staff in “some areas”.
The trust acknowledged that this was not a sustainable position and was recruiting additional nursing staff nationally and internationally, said the regulator in its latest report.
The CQC’s chief inspector of hospitals, Professor Sir Mike Richards, said: “Since our last inspection changes have been made that give me, and more importantly local people, confidence that the services provided by the trust are improving.
“Steps have been taken to strengthen the way the trust is run and the way it manages risks to patient safety,” he said. “In addition, staff numbers have increased in key areas.
Sir Mike added that he was “satisfied” that the trust had made “steady progress” to meet the Kirkup report’s recommendations, with maternity and paediatric services “now working better together”.
“Recommendation for the trust to come out of special measures is testament to the hard work and commitment of an incredibly loyal workforce”
But he noted that the trust still had to make “significant and sustainable” improvements in maternity services, and that it still had “some complex staffing issues to address with regards to professional relationships and culture within some teams”.
The CQC’s fellow regulator Monitor will have the final say on whether to accept the recommendation for the trust to exit special measures.
The trust has severe financial difficulties and is in the process of forming an “accountable care organisation”, as part of the national new care models vanguard programme.
It has forecast a deficit of £23m this year, even after accounting for up to £25m of additional funding through the national tariff. Its turnover is £274m.
Jackie Daniel, Morecambe Bay’s chief executive, said: “The improved rating and recommendation for the trust to come out of special measures is testament to the hard work and commitment of an incredibly loyal workforce.
“We have a talented and professional workforce and the rating of ‘good’ for being ‘caring’ is recognition of this,” she said.
But she added: “We still have a lot of work to do to ensure we provide consistently high standards of care across all of our services.”
CQC report and HSJ interview