Medical and maternity wards in Sunderland and South Tyneside need improvement

Services at Sunderland Royal Hospital need improvement, the Care Quality Commission said Credit: Google

Medical care at two Tyneside hospitals and a maternity ward need improvement, inspectors have found.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) downgraded its rating of South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust following a recent inspection of its maternity services and medical wards at Sunderland Royal Hospital and South Tyneside District Hospital.

Inspectors looked at the two core services in June, then returned in August to look at the same areas, as well as the management and leadership of the trust under the key question of well-led. 

These unannounced inspections were carried out in response to concerns received about the safety and quality of the services.

Following the inspection, the rating for maternity services at Sunderland Royal Hospital remains rated as 'requires improvement'. Medical care at this hospital has declined from 'good' to 'requires improvement'.

At South Tyneside District Hospital, the rating for medical care has dropped from good to requires improvement. The CQC did not re-rate maternity services so this remains rated as good.

The overall rating for the trust has now declined from good to requires improvement.

Inspectors found

  • Systems for identifying, escalating and managing risks and issues were not always effective.

  • The trust did not consistently operate effective governance processes to ensure people received high-quality care.

  • The trust was slow to recognise and declare serious incidents.

  • Maternity services could not always provide one-to-one care for people in active labour.

  • On medical wards, staff did not always identify and escalate deteriorating people for medical review.

  • Medicines were not always stored appropriately.

  • People with suspected sepsis did not always receive timely assessment and treatment.

  • People with a learning disability were not consistently identified and assessed and did not always receive care that met their needs.

The CQC said that the trust had not taken effective action to address several areas of concern identified in previous inspections.

However, patients told inspectors that staff treated them well and with kindness and feedback from women using maternity services was positive. Inspectors said they witnessed lots of examples of compassionate care and people being treated with hindness and respect.

Sarah Dronsfield, CQC deputy director of operations in the north, said: “During our inspection of South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust in June, we found concerns relating to patient safety in the two services we visited, particularly around the management of risk.

"We shared these concerns with the trust’s senior leadership team, the board then provided details of the immediate action that would be taken to address these concerns.

“However, during our well-led inspection in August, we carried out a second inspection of the same two services at Sunderland Royal Hospital and South Tyneside District Hospital to check whether the trust had addressed, embedded and sustained the improvements required following our previous inspection in June.

“During this visit, we found the trust had made some improvements but had not addressed all of the areas of concern, which resulted in continued breaches of several regulations. We also identified further breaches of regulation during our review of how well-led the trust is.

“The leadership team have taken our concerns seriously and have shared their improvement plan with us and have provided regular updates on their progress. We will continue to monitor the trust to ensure it’s putting the improvements that are needed in place and will return to check on progress.”  

The trust said the situation with nursing and midwifery staffing had been "very challenging".

In response, chief executive Ken Bremner, said it had been an "incredibly testing" time for staff.

He said: “There is no doubt that the past two years has been incredibly tough but there can be no excuses.

"Our vision is for ‘excellence in all that we do’ and this shows we still have work to do. The CQC has shone a very welcome and helpful light on areas where we need to improve and this has come at an apt time as we look forward to the future.

“Despite all the challenges we face, people will always be treated with empathy and the utmost care and kindness here at STSFT.

"I want to thank our amazing staff for that. Given the pressure they continue to work under, it is testament to them that this care and compassion still shines through every day.”

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