Hospital chiefs dispute staffing concerns report

Wigan Infirmary
Wigan Infirmary

Hospital chiefs say they are disappointed with aspects of an inspection which raises concerns about levels of nursing staff on some wards.

Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust (WWL) was rated as good overall by health regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC) with 87 per cent of its services receiving either a good or outstanding rating.

We will continue on our improvement journey, whose success is evidenced by numerous national indicators and benchmarks to ensure that our patients continue to receive safe, effective and compassionate care

Andrew Foster

And although areas of outstanding practice were commended in a report by inspectors, areas where the trust needed to improve were also identified.

Staffing issues in paediatrics, neonatal and on some wards meant that the trust’s rating for safety dropped to “requiring improvements,” while Wigan Infirmary received the same overall rating, with concerns raised about the safety and leadership of its service.

The trust did challenge some of the CQC’s findings, including the rating for the safety of the paediatric service, the only area where the trust was rated as “inadequate,” but this was unsuccessful.

The trust was praised for the outstanding service its accident and emergency department provided, for its end-of-life care and its breast-screening services.

Services such as accident and emergency, end of life care and breast cancer screening received outstanding ratings, as did the Thomas Linacre Centre.

Andrew Foster, Trust Chief Executive, said: “We are pleased to see that the CQC rated the majority of our services as either good or outstanding but we truly believe as a board that our trust and our staff are outstanding.

“We will continue on our improvement journey, whose success is evidenced by numerous national indicators and benchmarks to ensure that our patients continue to receive safe, effective and compassionate care.”

The report, which was published this week, highlights a “positive attitude throughout the trust based on a culture of continuous improvement and striving for excellence”.

And although the level of medical staff across the five sites inspected was said to be good, the trust was rated as requiring improvement for safety because staffing on the paediatric and neonatal units did not meet national standards.

Inspectors found that there were occasions where the nurse staffing levels were not sufficient to meet the needs of patients on the medical wards at the infirmary.

The trust was told to ensure that at Wigan Infirmary there are sufficient numbers of staff who are trained to resuscitate children at all times in the emergency department and that staffing levels in paediatric care are maintained.

At Leigh Infirmary, which was rated as good overall, the trust must ensure that there is adequate space on the wards for patients to receive safe and effective care and that there are adequate facilities to store clinical waste safely.

A spokesman for the trust said: “WWL’s paediatric services received good ratings for the effective, caring and responsive domains.

“We received requires improvement for well-led and unfortunately inadequate for safe. Issues were raised during the inspection and an action plan was immediately developed to address the CQC’s concerns.

“We are really disappointed with the rating we have received from the CQC and we did everything we could to provide evidence to the CQC that would assure them that our services are safe.

“We acknowledged that improvements were required but at no time did we, nor the CQC, believe that children and young people were unsafe or at a high risk of avoidable harm or abuse which is the CQC’s definition of inadequate care.

“We submitted a detailed ratings challenge and provided the CQC with further evidence; however, unfortunately the challenge was unsuccessful.”

The report did include many positive comments about the paediatric service including ‘care was provided by committed, compassionate and hard -working staff who were enthusiastic about their role and worked in a cohesive, multi-disciplinary way’.

The Chief Inspector of Hospitals, Professor Sir Mike Richards, said: “Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust is managed and led by a stable team. CQC inspectors found a positive attitude throughout the trust – which is reflected in our overall rating.

“There were many examples of good practice. The trust has been recognised for its staff engagement programme and I note it has been ranked as one of the best acute trust in the NHS as a place to work. And I have no doubt that the quality of patient care benefits as a result.

“There were some areas where nurse staffing required improvement particularly in paediatric services where we have asked the trust to look again at how they calculate staff numbers.

“By providing that additional focus on the areas that need to be improved, I would hope that when we next inspect WWL they will be delivering even higher standards of care.”