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Top marks for third trust

Praise and congratulations have been pouring in for Western Sussex Hospitals FT, which on Wednesday became only the third acute trust to be rated “outstanding” by the CQC (following Salford Royal and Frimley Health’s top marks).

Chief inspector of hospitals Sir Mike Richards said the trust “aspires to be one of the best patient centred services in the NHS with a trust-wide mantra of ‘patients first’”. “We found that this ambition was understood and embedded in the practice of staff… at all levels,” he continued.

Health minister Ben Gummer said he wanted other trusts to look to Western Sussex “as a model for excellent care”, while a number of HSJ readers congratulated the staff, with one calling them “a beacon for a change that needs to be embraced system-wide”.

In an exclusive interview with HSJ, trust chief executive Marianne Griffiths revealed the secrets of the trust’s success.

Its Patient First initiative was taken on by staff at all levels, who made suggestions and carried out improvements in care – “You have to take hearts and minds with you,” she said.

The organisation also learnt a lot from Jeremy Hunt’s favourite US hospital, Virginia Mason, and adopted many of its approaches to empowering frontline staff to make improvements.

What makes the rating especially noteworthy is that the trust was formed in 2009 from a merger, which have not always been synonymous with outstanding results in the NHS.

Ms Griffiths said building a leadership and culture from scratch was “a unique experience”, and she benefited from having a stable team. The trust also has a centralised clinical management model for its three hospitals. As she put it: “We integrated from day one.

CQC cuts continue

The Care Quality Commission’s budget has been reduced by £9m more than it was expecting this year.

The regulator’s budget for 2016-17 is due to be £236m, rather than the £245m it had expected only a few months ago – and is £13m lower than last year’s.

The new figures appeared in the regulator’s draft business plan for the coming year on Wednesday.

Chief executive David Behan said the lower budget was achievable because the CQC was likely to have ended 2015-16 having spent £12m less than planned.

However, non-executive director Paul Rew said the watchdog’s spending was on “rising trajectory” and delivering the new budget would be “a little bit more challenging than might otherwise have been portrayed”.