Monthly column for providers and professionals working in healthcare from Professor Ted Baker, Chief Inspector of Hospitals
This month I wanted to highlight some of the impressive work we’re seeing being undertaken by NHS trusts to improve their quality ratings.
We know that trusts are facing more demands than ever. They are looking after more people with increasingly complex needs amid ongoing financial and workforce challenges. The pressures once reserved for winter are now felt year-round: July saw record A&E attendances; increases in people waiting for treatment; and missed key cancer standards. The whole system is under pressure and it is not just acute trusts that are experiencing these stresses.
However, despite these challenges we are continuing to see many trusts improve their ratings.
In the past month alone, we have seen two trusts — West Midlands Ambulance Service University NHS Foundation Trust and University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust — maintain their Outstanding ratings, as well as a number of others improve their ratings upon re-inspection. I also want to mention those trusts that have made sufficient progress for us to recommend that they leave special measures.
Recognising the pressures trusts face, these are all remarkable achievements to be proud of. We realise that all improvements are hard won, and reflect the dedication, determination and hard work of everyone involved. These better ratings reflect real and important improvements in the quality of care that these trusts provide, and I am heartened when I hear of trusts celebrating their achievements. Don’t forget to tag @CQCProf on Twitter so we can celebrate with you!
There are a number of common traits shared by those trusts at which we are seeing improvements. These include:
- Collaborative, visible and listening leadership
- Effective structures, systems and processes
- Clear trust vision and values
- A positive culture that supports and encourages learning and improvement
We also know that many of the trusts that improved their rating have used their inspection reports as a catalyst for improvement and as a springboard to make changes.
These are all key themes that are highlighted in our Driving improvement reports, which feature case studies of mental health and acute trusts that have achieved significant improvements in their ratings. Look also at our report on quality improvement in NHS trusts.
What we have observed is that when a culture of improvement is driven by effective trust leadership, it can become embedded throughout the organisation so that staff are able implement changes that make a real difference to patient care. If you are embarking on your own improvement journey, I would encourage you to look at these case studies and learn from those trusts who are leading the way.