Newcastle Hospital trust's 'outstanding' rating suspended over 'significant discrepancies'

The Care Quality Commission has withdrawn its ranking for the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI) and Freeman Hospital. Credit: PA

A healthcare watchdog has suspended a North East NHS trust’s ‘outstanding’ rating due to “significant discrepancies” in a new inspection.

The Care Quality Commission has withdrawn its ranking for the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI) and Freeman Hospital.

The trust was rated as ‘outstanding’ at its last full inspection in 2019, but inspectors have since highlighted problems.

Earlier this year, it was issued with a warning notice ordering it to make significant and immediate improvements in the quality and safety of care provided to patients with a mental health need, a learning disability, or autism.

The CQC also said that maternity services at the RVI require improvement after an unannounced inspection in January – with concerns about out-of-date equipment being used and staff feeling undervalued.

Following a latest inspection by the watchdog, a notice on the Newcastle Hospitals page of the CQC website confirms that it has “suspended the ratings on this page as following our recent inspection there are significant discrepancies between the current rating and our findings”.

Sarah Dronsfield, CQC’s interim director of operations in the north of England added: “CQC carried out an inspection of services at The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in June, July and September. The findings from this inspection will be published in a report on CQC’s website once it has been through the usual quality checks.

“Following the inspection, we made the decision to suspend the overall ratings for the trust, as there are significant inconsistencies between the current ratings and our findings at this inspection. The ratings will be updated on CQC’s website when the latest inspection report is published.

“Our main priority is always the safety of people using health and social care services, and if we have concerns we will not hesitate to take action in line with our regulatory powers. We would encourage anyone who has concerns about a health and social care service to let us know. This can be done by using the give feedback on care form on our website or via our customer service centre on 03000 616161.”

A spokesperson for the trust confirmed it had received a draft version of a CQC report, which has not been made public yet.

They added: “We are currently reviewing this in detail and looking carefully at the issues raised.  We are aware that our existing rating has been suspended on their website. The quality of care we provide, and the safety of our patients remains our first priority.”

Hospitals chief executive Dame Jackie Daniel said in August that, following CQC inspection visits in June and July, inspectors had “identified some areas where improvements need to be made”.

Dame Jackie, who is due to step down later this year and will be replaced by Sir James Mackey, wrote at the time: “Our correspondence so far suggests that they [the CQC] have seen skilful and caring interactions with patients throughout their visit and heard many experiences of personalised care being reported from patients.

“In children’s services inspectors saw that the care offered to young people was personalised to their needs and that families were appropriately involved in decision making. They also positively commended our safeguarding practices.

“As mentioned in my last blog and our operational updates, some areas were identified where improvements need to be made. It’s always disappointing when we fall short of the high standards that are expected and we are responding quickly to put things right.

“These include points in relation to medicines management and storage of some cleaning substances (which has been rectified and monitored with ongoing audits), observation of the ED waiting room, which has been addressed, and elements of how we use our electronic patient record – a work in progress.”

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...