After the most rigorous and in-depth inspections ever, the Chief Inspector of Hospitals says that "care and compassion is alive and well in the NHS".
Sir Mike Richards says: "Inspectors found care and compassion among frontline staff in every hospital visited, as well as a strong commitment to the NHS. We observed a lot of good practice."
Richards instigated a new system of inspecting hospitals, using more statistics to guide the inspectors, but also relying on "lay" members of bigger inspection teams to represent the patient's point of view.
18 hospitals were inspected in the new style last year and now Richards has drawn the lessons of those inspections in a new report from the Care Quality Commission.
Richards has noticed some common failings. Accident and Emergency Departments (A&E) were found to be under greater strain than other hospital services.
Some haven’t adapted to increased volumes of patients, which is leading to overcrowding, long waiting times and staff shortages at times. Outpatient services were poor – across most of the hospitals inspected patients were waiting unacceptably long times to be seen and some clinics were overcrowded as a result.
But overall the report is actually pretty complimentary about the general standards of NHS hospitals. Three of the hospitals inspected agreed to be rated under a new experimental system, which should soon be applied to all hospitals.
The Royal Surrey County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has a ‘good’ rating. The Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust has a ‘requires improvement’ rating - after further snap inspections they've seen improvements.
The Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust also has a ‘requires improvement’ rating, and there will be an unannounced inspection in the near future.
So next time you start to curse the NHS, remember it's not all bad - some of it really does work.