The Care Quality Commission has upgraded Hinchingbrooke Health Care Trust’s rating from “inadequate” to “requires improvement”, but concluded that it should remain in special measures.
The improved rating is based on a follow-up inspection carried out by the regulator shortly before it published a highly critical report on the trust in January.
Hinchingbrooke was, until the end of last month, the only hospital trust in the country to be operated by a private company – Circle – but returned to the NHS on 1 April.
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The CQC carried out its original inspection in September and published its first report for the trust on 9 January, rating it “inadequate” and recommending that it be placed in special measures.
During its September inspection, the CQC highlighted “serious concerns” with the trust and asked it to make improvements.
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The CQC then returned to re-inspect the trust on 2 January to “check on progress with those improvements”. At the time of the CQC’s inspection the trust was still being run by Circle.
The new report, which improves Hinchingbrooke’s rating, is based on that follow-up inspection.
The CQC chief inspector of hospitals Sir Mike Richards said: “When we returned to inspect Hinchingbrooke Health Care Trust we found a number of improvements had been made on the Apple Tree and Juniper wards.
“We were pleased the trust had acted swiftly to make improvements to these wards and to safety in the emergency department. However, these changes need to be sustained and embedded,” he said. “I am not recommending the trust comes out of special measures at this stage.”
“This will inflame the sense of injustice we know many Hinchingbrooke staff feel”
In the new report, Hinchingbrooke was rated by the CQC as “requires improvement” for being safe, effective, caring and responsive, but was still rated “inadequate” for being well led.
The original report had also rated it as “inadequate” in the areas of caring and safety.
A spokesman said Circle was “astonished” by the new report, claiming it “entirely vindicated” the company’s view that the original inspection was “flawed”.
“This second report is based on an inspection carried out before the CQC’s first report,” he said. “We simply cannot understand why they published a critical report after an inspection that showed a different result.
“This was deeply misleading to patients, and will inflame the sense of injustice we know many Hinchingbrooke staff feel,” he added.