PERFORMANCE: Medway Foundation Trust has shown signs of “considerable improvement” since it was inspected last August and September, the chief inspector of hospitals has said.

In a letter to health secretary Jeremy Hunt, Professor Sir Mike Richards said the trust was safer for patients; leadership had improved; and staff engagement among senior and middle managers was better. However, low staffing levels were effecting the morale of frontline staff and some at band seven and below felt unsupported.

Mike Richards

Mike Richards

Sir Mike recommended the trust remain in special measures for another six months

His conclusions were based on visits by the Care Quality Commission to the trust in March. After it was judged “inadequate” in January after an inspection, the trust was given until the end of April to improve – with a warning from Sir Mike that he would use enforcement powers, potentially including deregistering the trust, if there was no progress. The trust has been in special measures since summer 2013.

Sir Mike has recommended that the trust remain in special measures for another six months, with a re-inspection in the autumn and ongoing support from Guy’s and St Thomas’ FT. His letter said the trust now has a clear plan of action for safety improvements; fewer patients are being cared for in emergency department corridors; and the executive team is “cohesive”.

Medway chief executive Lesley Dwyer said: “Our ambition is to provide the best possible care to the people of Kent and Medway, and we know we still have a long way to go before we achieve that. Although we will remain in special measures, I am very pleased that the CQC has recognised that we have made significant improvements over the last few months. This is a tribute to the hard work our staff have put in to understand what wasn’t working, and make changes to benefit our patients.

“Since the CQC were here last summer, we have made the hospital safer, cleaner and more responsive to the needs of patients. Patients are now seen quicker when they arrive at the emergency department, see fewer different doctors, and are discharged to the comfort of their own homes quicker.

“But we recognise that there is considerably more to do. We are acutely conscious that we need to address staffing levels and recruit more permanent colleagues to reduce our dependency on agency staff. Having tackled many of the safety and quality issues in the trust, we also need to turn our attention to making the trust as efficient as possible. So we will continue to work tirelessly over the next few months to make improvements and ensure we provide the service that the people of Kent and Medway deserve.”

The trust still has many problems, including a £52.5m deficit last year and a shortfall of over 300 nurses. However, Sir Mike’s letter is the first sign that the trust may be turning its performance around since Ms Dwyer took over in May 2015.