United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust has recorded widespread improvements in its most recent inspections despite COVID-19-related staff shortages and critical incidents – but it’s overall rating still hasn’t gone up.
The Care Quality Commission carried out an inspection in October at both Pilgrim Hospital and Lincoln County Hospital as part of its continual checks on the safety and quality of healthcare services, and it was published on Tuesday, February 8.
Despite being kept at a “requires improvement” rating, the CQC inspectors were pleased to see widespread improvements across the board, from medical, maternity, urgent and emergency services, as well as services for children.
The trust ratings went up to ‘good’ for effectiveness and being well-led, while the rating for being safe and responsive remained at ‘requires improvement’ and caring was kept as ‘good’.
At Lincoln County Hospital, inspectors found staff on medical wards knew how to deal with any specific risk issues, and vacancy rates had been reduced thanks to hard work during a recruitment drive. This is despite a critical incident at the hospital at the end of 2021.
As well as this, there were no delays found when patients were transferred to a new area, but facility and equipment concerns were not always responded to in a timely manner in the maternity department, and A&E patients couldn’t always access treatment within agreed timeframes.
As for Pilgrim Hospital in Boston, maternity leaders “displayed enthusiasm” to improve services, and staff knew how to protect patients from harassment and discrimination.
The design of the A&E department, however, did not always follow national guidance, but the report said action had been taken to make improvements.
Ted Baker, chief inspector of hospitals at the CQC, said: “Our inspection of United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust found many areas that had improved since we last inspected which is good news for people receiving care.
“I would like to congratulate the trust and all its staff for the progress they have made. It is particularly impressive set against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The trust has had historic issues, particularly regarding concerns with Pilgrim Hospital’s urgent and emergency department and maternity services and was in special measures for several years. Staff and their leaders must be commended for the steps they’ve taken towards improving patient care in these previously troubled areas.
“We continue to monitor the trust closely and leaders know where we expect to see improvements and where to sustain areas where good patient care is already being delivered.”
ULHT chief executive, Andrew Morgan, said: “We are really pleased that the huge effort that everyone has put into providing and improving services, particularly over the past two years, has been recognised.
“The CQC has recognised the significant improvements we have made in the quality and safety of our services since the last inspection in 2019.
“They have commented that this was particularly impressive against the COVID backdrop. Positive comments were also made about the Trust having a strong cohesive team with collective leadership at board level.”
Mr Morgan did say that despite the positive reports, he is still aware of the numerous issues patients face at Lincolnshire hospitals.
He added: “Whilst widespread improvements had been made, we acknowledge there are still concerns regarding access and flow in the urgent and emergency department at Lincoln County Hospital.
“People continued to experience delays in accessing the service and receiving care promptly. Waiting times from referral to treatment and arrangements to admit, treat and discharge patients were still below national standards.
“We are determined to take this feedback and make further significant improvements across the Trust, for the benefit of our staff and patients.
“I want to say a big thank you to all our staff and partners who have come together over the past few years to help us to improve our services for the people of Lincolnshire. There is still more to be done but we are heading in the right direction.”