Essex hospital chiefs blame flawed algorithm for inadequate rating by CQC

Bosses described the findings as "hugely disappointing".

A hospital trust has raised questions over a health watchdog's methodology after its services were rated as inadequate.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) told the Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust it must make urgent improvements after concerns were raised that staff shortages were impacting care.

That view was backed by staff at a residential home close to the trust's Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford. They say they no longer trust the care provided there.

But hospital chiefs pointed to a flawed algorithm for the rating, saying that the newly-formed trust's lack of history had counted against it.

Among the report's findings were:

  • Lack of nursing and support staff meant patients who needed help with eating or drinking were not always supported;

  • Some patients had no privacy with a lack of curtains around patient beds;

  • The premises and equipment along with the upkeep did not always keep people safe;

  • Safety was put at risk because staff did not always complete and update risk assessments

Lyn Wynn says she's been using red wrist bands to alert staff to patients with allergies Credit: ITV News Anglia

That view was backed by Liz Wynn, the manager of the Southminster Residential Home. When residents need hospital treatment, they are usually sent to Broomfield.

She says she has to take extra safety precautions to protect her residents, after repeated instances of paperwork going missing.

She said: "That really concerned me because somebody may have an allergy and they wouldn't know because that paperwork is missing, from past experience that has happened. Now we send a red wrist label on attached to them showing any allergies."

Staff not always keeping detailed records of people's care and treatment was another of the findings highlighted in the CQC report on the Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust.

Hannah Coffey, acting chief executive, said: “This is a hugely disappointing report. Work is already well under way to address the issues raised, and that was recognised by the inspectors.

“We are disappointed that, while there are no other services apart from medicine rated as inadequate at any of our hospital sites, the algorithm used by the CQC means that they have now rated Broomfield and Basildon Hospitals as inadequate overall.

“When we merged to become one organisation, the previous ratings for Basildon and Broomfield were erased meaning that only a very small number of services on those sites have been inspected. This has had an impact on their overall rating."

Ms Coffey said an improvement plan was in place.

Hazel Roberts, CQC deputy director in the east of England, said the trust's leadership team "didn’t have complete oversight of the issues they're facing".

“We've highlighted a number of issues where they need to have far better oversight and where we want to see significant improvements.

“Leaders need to ensure they are allowing staff the time to complete essential training, including safeguarding and conflict resolution. This helps staff to understand and look out for risks and how to deal with them. Without this training, staff weren’t always able to complete and update risk assessments for each person to remove or minimise these risks.  

“It was also disappointing that people’s privacy and dignity wasn’t always respected. We found areas in all three hospitals where a ward at full capacity didn’t have curtains or screens to provide privacy and dignity to every person occupying a bed."

However the CQC said staff did treat people kindly and with care.

The trust is being supported by the local integrated care system and NHS England.

It said the trust "should use this additional expertise and resource to make the rapid improvements that we need to see."

However the trust was also praised for treating people with "compassion and kindness".

Read the full reports for each of the three hospitals:

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