• FT loses ‘outstanding’ rating in first full inspection since merger
  • Frimley Park Hospital still rated ‘outstanding’
  • CQC says new chief executive is addressing problems

Frimley Health Foundation Trust has been rated as “good” by the Care Quality Commission, a downgrade from the “outstanding” given to its predecessor organisation Frimley Park Hospital FT.

Frimley Park Hospital Foundation Trust was the first organisation to be rated as “outstanding”, in 2014. Shortly afterwards - in late 2014 - it took over the troubled Heatherwood and Wexham Park Foundation Trust.

In what was praised as an impressive rapid turnaround, Wexham Park’s rating was raised from “inadequate” to “good” after a focused inspection in 2016.

Since the merger, the resulting Frimley Health Foundation Trust has been rated as “outstanding” on the CQC’s website. 

Under the inspection report published today, based on visits at the end of last year, the ratings for the two hospitals remained the same - “outstanding” from Frimley and “good” for Wexham Park - but because it was a full inspection of the merged trust, the overall rating has been revised to “good”.

A new chief executive, Neil Dardis, took over the trust early last year, on the departure of Sir Andrew Morris after 29 years.

CQC deputy chief inspector of hospitals for the south, Nigel Acheson said: “Our inspectors found a strong patient-centred culture with staff committed to keeping their patients safe, and encouraging them to be independent. In return, patients and relatives spoke highly of staff and how they were informed of treatment plans, and how these would affect them.

“It is no secret that over the last year Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust has faced particular challenges. There have been too many never events in that time and we know there have also been staff shortages in maternity wards. We are aware that the new chief executive and leadership team have picked up these issues, but at the time of the inspection these improvements although implemented were not yet fully embedded. We will return again to inspect further improvements in the near future.”

The report was generally positive but raised a number of issues including:

  • Staffing levels in midwifery including not reaching recommended staffing levels on shifts. Concerns about staffing had been raised with the CQC by members of the public. Midwifery was rated “requires improvement” for safety.
  • Not all non-executive directors had a current disclosure and barring service certificate and personnel records for directors did not always contain all the information needed to demonstrate good character as part of the “fit and proper person” process.
  • No systemic approach to quality improvement or effective system to identify strategic risks – although this was being addressed.

Adult community inpatient services were inspected for the first time and judged to be “good”, as was Heatherwood Hospital. Inspectors also found improvements in theatres after a number of never events before a focused inspection last year.

Frimley Health chief executive Neil Dardis said: “The latest comprehensive report by the CQC reflects many examples of good and outstanding care across the trust whilst also highlighting those areas where we need to improve.

“Much has changed in the inspection process since the last time our services were fully assessed, with more rigorous scrutiny on individual services along with separate leadership and use of resources reviews.

“Our teams should feel proud with the report published today. However, our ambition is to seek improvement wherever possible for the benefit of our patients, staff and communities and I welcome the insight provided by the inspection team, which aligns well with our own plans for the future.”

The CQC issued two requirement notices to the trust – one on midwifery staffing levels and a second about staff completing mandatory training.