‘17,000 reasons’ why Sheffield’s hospitals are ‘good’ and getting better

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals has maintained its ‘good’ rating, while taking strides towards being ‘outstanding’, with proud bosses hailing the efforts of staff and volunteers

The trust, which runs the Northern General, Royal Hallamshire and Weston Park hospitals, among other services, was rated ‘good’ overall by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), which found many examples of ‘outstanding’ work.

Staff outside Sheffield's Northern General Hospital, where more than 6,000 people work

Staff outside Sheffield's Northern General Hospital, where more than 6,000 people work

It won particular praise for ‘significant improvements’ made to improve the flow through its emergency department, keeping waiting times below 90 minutes for most patients.

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The watchdog judged it ‘good’ at providing safe, effective, caring and well-led services, and ‘outstanding’ at responding to patients’ needs, in the report, which was published today.

That places it among the top 20 per cent of NHS hospital trusts nationally, which have achieved the distinction of scoring ‘good’ or better in all five categories on which they are assessed.

Members of Sheffield Teaching Hospital's community healthcare team

Members of Sheffield Teaching Hospital's community healthcare team

The trust’s chairman Tony Pedder heralded the efforts of its 17,000 staff and volunteers, saying: “We really do have 17,000 reasons why we have achieved such a positive rating from the CQC.

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“Every one of our staff and volunteers makes our organisation what it is and we are very fortunate to have some of the best people in the NHS working in our hospitals and community services.

“Proud, caring, compassionate and prepared to go the extra mile are just some of the words used by the CQC about our teams and the care they give to patients every single day.”

Critical care, maternity and gynaecology, community health services, outpatients and diagnostic imaging, and community dental services provided by the trust were all judged to be ‘outstanding’.

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The trust cares for more than two million patients each year across its five hospitals, which also include the Jessop Wing Maternity Hospital and Charles Clifford Dental Hospital, and in the local community.

Professor Ted Baker, the CQC’s chief inspector of hospitals, said: “There has been some outstanding work done at the trust in response to patient needs - particularly the work in end-of-life care and the way the trust supports patients to get early access to services.  

“Patients we spoke with were entirely positive about the way their care needs were met. We found clear evidence of a knowledgeable and steady leadership who were committed to continual improvement and instilling a shared vision of high quality care.

“There are also some areas for improvement – and we have made this clear to the trust. We will return to check the trust’s progress in due course.”

The ‘outstanding’ features acknowledged by the watchdog included:

- the surgical department, which is regularly in the top three of NHS trusts nationally for meeting referral to treatment targets, and was praised for being the first in the UK to use a new cutting-edge heart treatment

- Northern General Hospital’s work to support patients wishing to die at home, which includes providing ‘comfort boxes’ containing everything they need to take with them

- The excellent care provided by staff on the intensive home nursing service, who went ‘above and beyond’ to support not just patients but also their relatives

Today’s report marks a slight improvement since the last inspection in 2015, after which the trust was judged ‘good’ both overall and for all five criteria on which it was assessed.

‘Outstanding’ is the highest and ‘inadequate’ the lowest of four grades awarded by the CQC, which visited the trust to carry out its latest inspection there during June and July this year.

The Northern General Hospital was rated ‘good’ overall, with inspectors recognising improvements to urgent, emergency and end-of-life care.

Royal Hallamshire Hospital maintained its ‘good’ rating, with end-of-life care having improved.

Weston Park Hospital still ‘requires improvement’, according to inspectors, but medical care and end-of-life services there have got better; and community health services were again deemed ‘good’.

The trust's chief executive, Kirsten Major, said: “All our staff and volunteers work so hard to do their best for patients, so I am pleased that this has been reflected in the ‘good’ rating and the ‘outstanding’ rating for so many services.

“We have further increased our rating in 40 per cent of the areas inspected, which is an incredible achievement given we have treated more patents than ever before this year and continued providing high quality care through one of the harshest winters we have seen for some years.

“Our waiting times have remained some of the best in the NHS and our patient satisfaction rate remains high.”

Inspectors found waiting times within the emergency department were low, with most patients waiting less than 90 minutes.

In the Northern General Hospital’s emergency department, nursing and support staff numbers had increased by a quarter since the last inspection, following a £1.2 million investment.

The report states that patients, relatives and carers gave ‘consistently positive feedback’, with patients saying they felt safe and found staff ‘caring and compassionate’.

And it recognises how carers are supported to stay with their loved ones thanks to the offer of beds and flexible visiting times.

The report highlights some areas for improvement, including the need to improve staffing levels on some wards and to ensure patients are handed over to emergency department staff within 15 minutes of arriving by ambulance.

The trust said some improvements had already been made since the inspection.

While it was ‘disappointed’ about Weston Park Hospital's overall rating, it said medical care, outpatients and diagnostics, and end-of-life care there were all rated ‘good’ and it was working to improve non-clinical systems and processes at the hospital.

A separate Use of Resources report, also published by the CQC today, rates the trust ‘good’ for using its resources productively.