• Kettering General Hospital rated requires improvement
  • But will remain in special measures
  • Regulator found safety concerns in A&E and radiology

The Care Quality Commission has upgraded a troubled hospital trust’s inadequate rating, just 10 months after it was issued.

Kettering General Hospital Foundation Trust has been rated requires improvement across all five CQC domains, except for caring for which it was rated good, in a report published today.

It was first rated inadequate overall and placed in special measures in April 2017, but at the time the CQC did not rate it across its five quality domains.

The new ratings are a significant improvement since a report in September which said it was inadequate for safety and leadership. The ratings for the other three domains are unchanged since September.

The CQC said that, despite the overall improvement, the trust would remain in special measures because it would “continue to benefit from the external support”.

Kettering is now the fifth trust that has seen its rating change from inadequate to requires improvement but not yet exited special measures.

The CQC found significant concerns in accident and emergency and diagnostic and imaging services, which were both rated inadequate.

The regulator’s report, based on two inspections in November, said that Kettering’s emergency department “did not manage patient safety incidents well…[and] the children’s emergency department was not fit for purpose”.

It found that A&E patients did not receive observation, assessments or treatment in a “timely way” nor were those arriving by ambulance always prioritised in terms of clinical need.

A significant problem emerged with Kettering’s waiting list management last year. The CQC said there remained “significant concerns about unreported images” in Kettering’s radiology department. It said the trust had not properly monitored the problem so it did not know the “true extent of [its] backlog”. It also found that non-radiology staff were reviewing images which it said was not in accordance with the Royal College of Radiology guidelines.

The trust’s fourth chief executive in less than two years, Simon Weldon, is due to start work in April, joining from NHS England. Fiona Wise has been interim chief since February last year.

Ted Baker, the CQC’s chief inspector of hospitals, said: “The radiography service was not providing a safe service for patients. Diagnostic images had not been reported in a timely manner which meant the service was not managing potential risks to patient safety.

“There were also an insufficient number of radiologists, radiographers, and nurses which affected the efficiency of the department.” The CQC is currently undertaking a national review of radiology, amid concerns about significant backlogs.

The regulator also raised concerns about Kettering’s maternity service. It rated it requires improvement overall but raised concerns about management of incidents, training, outcomes, and screening.

All six core services that the CQC inspected were rated as good in the caring domain, and it said it found staff were compassionate, provided emotional support, and involved patients in treatment decisions.

Inspectors looked at urgent and emergency care, surgery, maternity, children and young people’s service, outpatients and diagnostic imaging. The trust’s leadership was also inspected at the end of November. The CQC found the trust had a clear short term vision for the next 12 months but that “a longer term vision was yet to be developed”.