Hospital regulator finds services at GWH much improved, but...There were expressions of dismay at Great Western Hospitals' monthly board meeting (January 10) over the latest report from the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
For its third report running the CQC has given GWH an overall rating of 'requires improvement' - despite the hospital staff's success in turning round the detailed ratings to 'good' from 'requires improvement' in nineteen of the inspected areas. This left 46 areas rated 'good' out of the 59 inspected last August.
The CQC's general ratings put the two inspected areas of 'safe' and 'responsive' as 'requiring improvement', with 'good' ratings for GWH's services being 'effective', 'caring' and 'well-led'. You can see the full CQC report here.
On specific services the community health services GWH provides in Swindon for children, young people and families were rated 'outstanding'. Community health inpatient services and services for adults were rated 'good'.
The hospital's end of life care was rated 'good', but urgent care services were rated 'requires improvement.' Some members of the Board were anxious lest this report hit morale among the hospital staff.
GWH is still working with a huge daily increase in demand. With a series of additional measures for the winter period in place, they waited for the rush - mainly for the Emergency Department (ED) - between Christmas and the New Year. It did not materialise. But it certainly did in the first week in January.
In November GWH's ED four hour waiting percentage was at 90.3 per cent of patients against the national standard of 95 per cent. It is feared it may soon drop to around 84 per cent. So far "January has been very difficult for us".
The good news from the November figures is that GWH exceeded all the cancer treatment standards - and in two areas were at 100 per cent.
For example, all patients needing a second or subsequent treatment had it within the 31-day wait period. GWH is the seventh best hospital in the country for meeting cancer treatment standards.
Money is still the main difficulty for GWH managers. They have asked for a £5million loan to help with cash flow problems - as they have had to do before. They have to pay interest on these loans.
They have only been allocated £3,750,000 on the grounds that they had just received a top-up payment - which all hospitals get from central funds to keep their acknowledged deficits in check. The Director of Finance said they would have to cope - somehow.
It was the last board meeting for chairman Roger Hill who retires after ten years on the board - five of them as chairman. It was, he pointed out, his 112th board meeting. The new chairman is Liam Coleman who was a non-executive director with GWH between 2009 and 2016.
Mr Coleman has had a long career in industry and until recently was CEO of The Co-operative Bank and in 2017 led the successful recapitalisation of the Bank.
PERSONAL FOOTNOTE: GWH is striving for excellence and patient safety in a hospital that is too small for Swindon's considerable population growth and the ageing population across the whole area it serves.
To listen to the directors at the board meeting and then come home to the first in the BBC2's new 'Hospital' series was a shock.
If the CQC's rigid ratings find GWH still in need of improvement, why have the CQC not been jumping up and down on heads in Downing Street and across Whitehall to do something about the Royal Liverpool Hospital.
We watched in disbelief as staff there coped with floods and iffy electric supplies and equipment failures and a crumbling structure - on top of all the normal NHS pressures of staff shortages and ever-rising demand. And still providing amazing - if often delayed - treatment and care.
Meanwhile, in the next street the new, replacement hospital has lain unfinished for a year - with millions of pounds worth of new equipment mothballed. All because the builder - the failed Carillion empire - went out of business.
It has no patients and no clinical staff. But staff do have to go round running water through the new building's 4,000-plus taps in case there is a build-up of nasty bacteria.
Why has this fiasco not been sorted out months ago? Where has the government been for the past year? Would it have been allowed to happen if the hospital was in Westminster?
Where did the Prime Minister go to launch the NHS ten-year plan? Liverpool. But she went to the new Alder Hey Children's Hospital.
The Liverpool Echo began its report of her visit under the heading: "Is the long term plan for the NHS a visionary transformation, or a repair job after year's of Tory austerity?" They may have an answer to that question at the Royal Liverpool Hospital.
For the record, next Tuesday (January 15) is the first anniversary of the day Carillion ceased trading...