PERFORMANCE: The Care Quality Commission has uncovered major concerns at a children’s ward run by Cambridgeshire Community Services Trust, which is facing a battle for survival.

The CQC revisited Holly Ward, based at Hinchingbrooke Hospital, in September to investigate “sustained concerns around staffing and care planning”.

It followed a routine inspection in February which identified problems with how nursing care was recorded and the number of nurses of duty, according to the regulator’s inspection report.  

The latest inspection found “inadequate staffing levels across the ward” and “no evidence” that this was being monitored. Some assessment beds had been temporarily closed and moved to the main inpatient ward area to maintain safe staffing levels.  

Records revealed nurses received insufficient clinical supervision. Inspectors were told that this was because senior members of staff were occupied covering unfilled shifts.

CQC deputy director of operations Andrea Gordon said: “Although our inspectors saw some good practice, the failings we found at the Holly Ward are a real concern.”

She said inspectors would soon return, warning: “If we find the required progress is not made we won’t hesitate to take further action where necessary.”

Trust chief nurse Mandy Renton said the trust was on target to fully comply with the CQC’s concerns by the end of the year.

She added: “At no time since the initial CQC visit in February 2013 have nursing staffing levels on the children’s ward fallen below safe levels.” Ms Renton said there are now two additional nurses working on the ward.

However, she admitted staff vacancies sometimes meant the trust was “unable to identify sufficient temporary nursing staff to maintain safe staffing levels for assessment beds”, forcing temporary bed closures.

“Care for children requiring assessments continued to be provided albeit in a different area of the ward,” she added.

Cambridgeshire Community Trust has faced a difficult past year. In March, the Midlands and East Strategic Health Authority announced it would not become a foundation trust, at a time national policy envisaged that all trusts had to win foundation status to survive.

It won a reprieve of at least three months in July following a delay in a programme, now valued at about £800m to tender services it provides. However, in October the consortium it joined to bid for the contract withdrew from the bidding.

The trust said it was “exploring [other] options” by which it could be involved in the older people’s contract.  

The NHS Trust Development Authority has told the trust it will still consider it “viable”, even if it is not involved in delivering the older people’s contract but this could see it lose a substantial proportion of its work. The trust is also bidding for other contracts.