You are here

Dorset County Hospital Requires improvement

Reports


Inspection carried out on 8 - 10 March 2016

During a routine inspection

Dorset County Hospital is the single site acute hospital provided by Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust; it has been a foundation trust since 2007. The trust provides acute and some community services to a population of around 250,000, living within Weymouth and Portland, West Dorset, North Dorset and Purbeck. It also provides renal services for patients throughout Dorset and South Somerset to a total population of 850,000. The geographical spread of the community means the trust also deliver services in Weymouth, Bridport, Sherborne and Blandford Community Hospitals.

Dorset County Hospital has approximately 400 inpatient beds. We inspected the following core services at Dorset County Hospital : Urgent and emergency care, medical care, surgery, critical care, maternity and gynaecology, children and young people, end of life care, outpatient and diagnostic services. We inspected satellite outpatients, day surgery and renal dialysis at two other NHS locations.

We inspected this hospital as part of our planned, comprehensive inspection programme. We carried out an announced inspection visit to the hospital from 8 to 10 March 2016, and additional unannounced inspection visits between 16 and 21 March 2016. During this time we also visited outpatients, day case surgical services and dialysis services provided at two other trust sites.

Overall, we rated this trust as ‘requires improvement’. We rated it ‘requires improvement’ for safe, effective, responsive and well led services, and ‘good’ for caring services.

We rated, medical care, surgical services, critical care, and services for children and young people as good. Urgent and emergency care, maternity and gynaecology, end of life care and outpatient services were rated as requires improvement.

Our key findings were as follows:

Are services safe?

  • The majority of staff understood when to report an incident, these were investigated and lessons learnt shared. However, in outpatients and diagnostic imaging staff felt discouraged from using the system as they did not always receive feedback and lessons learnt were not always shared. Some staff in the surgical specialty were still using were using a supplementary paper-based system which was outside of the trust policy. There was a high level of harm-free care. Staff were aware of the Duty of Candour legislation and the service had a system for tracking incidents that triggered a Duty of Candour response.

  • Systems were in place to enable staff to assess and respond safely to deterioration in patients’ health.

  • Medicines were generally stored and managed appropriately other than the smallamount of emergency medicines stored insecurely in the emergency trolleys. Some Patient Group Directions (PGDs) for medicines held in departments were out of date and not authorised, although updated at trust level. PGDs are instructions that permit authorised to staff to give medicines to patients without the patients having an individual prescription. PGDs need to be accurate and authorised to protect staff and patients,Staff had not followed trust policy for updating PGDs in some departments.

  • The mandatory training target set by the trust at 85% had not been met across all areas of the trust.

  • Safeguarding training compliance had increased to meet the target. Staff were aware of the safeguarding of vulnerable adults and children. Child safeguarding checks were always undertaken, and processes were in place to escalate concerns to the local authority if needed.

  • Regularly serviced and maintained equipment was available for patient’s use in most areas, with a prompt response from the maintenance team when equipment required repair. Some equipment in the emergency department was not clean or fit for use.

  • Patient records were not always secured safely, in lockable storage equipment to ensure confidentiality.

  • There were not always enough nursing, midwifery, therapy and medical staff with the right skill mix to provide safe care. Staffing levels had been reviewed, but changes to staffing levels identified as necessary from the reviews had not been fully implemented at the time of the inspection. The trust had a lower proportion of middle grade doctors than the national average, which put pressure on the medical teams. The trust was working to improve this.

  • Staff adhered to the bare below the elbow policy and maintained safe standards of infection prevention. The trust scored higher than the national average for cleanliness in the patient-led assessments of the care environment (PLACE), scoring 99%. The hospital’s infection control team carried out audits which led to improvements in standards of hygiene. However, the procedure for using the mortuary trolley did not adhere to infection control policies or procedures.

  • Some parts of the environment in emergency department were in need of repair and made cleaning difficult. The critical care unit (CRCU) environment was non-compliant with Department of Health’s Health Building Notes (HBN) 04-02.

  • In the operating departments, staff did not consistently complete the ‘Five Steps to Safer Surgery’ checklist to minimise the risk of patient harm.

Are services effective?

  • Most services followed pathways and protocols based on national guidance, such as the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines. Generally, patients’ care was planned and delivered in line with current evidence-based standards. There was monitoring of performance against national targets and the results of audits were used to improve treatment.

  • However on the maternity unit care and treatment did not consistently take account of current guidelines and legislation. For example we found some women did not have ongoing mental health checks throughout pregnancy, the maternal pulse was not consistently recorded on commencing a CTG trace for foetal wellbeing, and CTG traces were not reviewed in line with best practice guidelines.

  • The trust was recently more focused on improving end of life care for patients.But there had been a slow response to best practice guidance and the results of successive national care of the dying audits. The Achieving the Five Priorities for Care of the Dying Person care plan was in the process of being introduced, andits use was yet to be audited.

  • The majority of staff were trained and had the skills and knowledge required to undertake their role. There were educational opportunities available for all grades of medical and nursing staff.There were arrangements in place for the supervision and appraisal of staff. Although not all staff on the CRCU and in diagnostic and imaging had received an annual appraisal.

  • On the maternity unit, most of the consultants performed a limited number of caesarean sections, which had the potential to impact on their competence. Also in maternity consultants did not always give adequate supervision to junior registrars. There was little communication from the consultants to the nurses looking after the gynaecology patients and their attendance was described as “variable”.

  • Patient’s consent for treatment, observation or examination was sought by staff. When people lacked mental capacity to make decisions, staff understood their responsibilities around making best interest decisions.Staff were aware of the impact of the Mental Health Act (2005) and the Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards. However, not all ‘Do not attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation’ forms were supported by mental capacity assessments when it was stated patients lacked capacity.

  • The trust was still working towards a full 7-day service. There was access to physiotherapy, pharmacy and microbiology seven days a week. The critical care outreach team was only available Monday to Friday 8am -8pm and there was no formal ‘hospital at night’ service. While staff said there was good access to the palliative care team and said they were helpful and supportive, there was not a face-to-face specialist palliative care services, seven days per week. Women who were at risk of miscarriage were only offered scans between Mondays and Fridays. Women were required to attend the emergency department or were referred to a neighbouring trust out of hours.

  • Pain management was variable across the hospital. Patients who had undergone surgery told us their pain levels were regularly assessed and they received adequate pain relief. Pain assessment tools were not used for patients who had difficulty communicating verbally and patient’s pain was not being routinely monitored or managed effectively in CRCU

  • Information was not always provided to the patients GP in a timely manner. There had been a delay in providing discharge letters and clinic letters for cardiology patients, and clinic letters for dermatology and haematology patients.

  • There was effective multidisciplinary working with staff working together to provide patient care in a coordinated way.

Are services caring?

  • Patients and their relatives were positive about the caring attitude of staff and said staff treated them with dignity and respect.

  • Patient surveys showed that staff were caring and protected people’s privacy and dignity. The hospital’s ‘patient-led assessment of the care environment’ (PLACE) audit score for privacy and dignity was 92%, above the national average of 86%. Friends and family test were generally positive with the majority of people happy to recommend the hospital.

  • Patients said they felt involved in their treatment and had been able to make their own decisions.

  • The multi-faith chaplaincy service was available to provide emotional and spiritual support if requested.Patients also said staff helped them emotionally with their care. However, there was no psychology service at this trust so critical care patients with complex emotional needs could not be referred for formal psychological support.

Are services responsive?

  • The hospital often faced challenges with patients flow through the hospital and the number of available beds. The bed occupancy was consistency above the England average. The staff took a flexible approach to managing this situation including opening additional beds when able to do so. Other initiatives to improve the access and flow of patients through the hospital and, to promote shorter lengths of stay included the hospital@home service. Discharge planning was instigated at the time of admission. Ward staff and the discharge team worked with partners to improve the coordination of patient discharges and transfers.

  • Improvements were needed in the responsiveness of critical care, and maternity and gynaecology services. There were delayed transfers from the critical care unit, which was not a suitable environment for patients ready for care on a ward.Mixed sex breaches were not identified and reported in line with national guidance.

  • Services were planned to meet the needs of the local population and in coordination with other health and social care services.These included the services provided in the hospital site and those provided at other locations such as dialysis services in satellite units. Patients with respiratory problems had access to the Dorset adult integrated respiratory service (DAIRS) a small outreach service that coordinated care between the hospital and patients’ own homes.There was a day surgery unit in Weymouth, and a one stop breast clinic for timely and accurate diagnosis for patients awaiting breast cancer diagnosis. Outpatient clinics and diagnostic imaging were available at community clinics.

  • There were translation services available for patients whose first language was not English. Sign language interpreters were also made available. Patient information was available and could be provided in other languages on request.

  • Staff understood how to provide support to vulnerable people, including those living with a dementia or a learning disability or difficulty. There was no specialist liaison nurse for learning disabilities.

  • Staff tried to resolve patients’ concerns before they became complaints. Complaints were taken seriously, and changes made in response to patient feedback. There were improvement plansimproving timeliness of responses, in agreement with complainants

Are services well led?

  • Service leads had identified priorities for improvement, although the strategic vision was in part dependent on the Dorset Clinical Services Review. Strategies were also driven by the recent Vanguard project for more coordinated acute services across Dorset.

  • Service leads had articulated a vision and the priorities for end of life care services, but these had not been implemented. The leadership and governance processes for end of life care services had not been sufficient to ensure that necessary action plans were implemented in a timely way, and that quality, performance and risks were effectively monitored and managed.

  • Staff were aware of the trust’s vision. All staff were passionate about improving services and providing a high quality service. Most staff felt both the trust and local leadership teams were visible and supportive. The exception was the maternity and gynaecology service were consultants did not all work well as a team and working relationships were strained. In some area, managers were put under pressure to work clinically and were then not able to complete all aspects of their role, including quality assurance.

  • There was strong patient and staff engagement including ‘experience based design’ surveys to find out how people felt about their care and treatment. Many of the wards displayed recognition awards for teams and individual staff.

  • There was a governance structure for the services and services participated in audit programmes. A recent trust wide review had demonstrated that the governance processes including the reporting and escalation process needed strengthening.At local level the clinical governance teams had oversight of audit, performance, risks, quality and finance. A newly formatted risk register had been introduced, the completion and use of these registers was variable. Not all risk registers included all the risks and lacked evidence of mitigation and review.

We saw several areas of outstanding practice including:

  • The hospital@home service provided a valuable service supporting medically fit patients to have earlier discharges to their homes. This service was provided 24/7 and helped improve access and flow in the hospital as well improve outcomes for patients.

  • The support for renal dialysis patients was outstanding, with individualised care for patients to receive home dialysis and holiday dialysis when appropriate and safe.

  • The genitourinary medicine service was a well-led, patient focused service that had identified the needs of the patient groups it served, many of whom were vulnerable. There was excellent multi-disciplinary working with external agencies and robust clinical standards in place, which they service, audited themselves against, always looking for how they could improve the service. Outpatient clinics and advice sessions were held, where possible, at venues that encouraged attendance from patients who had the greatest need for the service but could not or found it challenging to attend a hospital.

  • The two bereavement midwives made home visits following a stillbirth or neonatal death. They made follow up visits to tell the parents post-mortem results in person and offered to provide antenatal care for women in any subsequent pregnancy. They also set up the monthly ‘Forget Me Not’ bereavement support group in a local children’s centre. They set up and closely monitored a private social media page for women who had lost a baby during pregnancy or after birth.

  • A gynaecology specialist nurse ran the ‘Go Girls Support Group’ along with a former patient, to provide support for women diagnosed with a gynaecological cancer.

  • Midwives ran specially designed antenatal, breastfeeding and smoking cessation sessions for ‘Young Mums’. They were also offered separate tours of the maternity unit.

  • There were several examples of patient involvement in the codesign and improvement of services and excellent use of experience based design (EBD) methodology.

However, there were also areas of poor practice where the trust needs to make improvements.

Importantly, the trust must ensure:

  • All equipment is clean and fit for purpose and ready for use in the emergency department. A clear process must be implemented to demonstrate the mortuary trolley has been cleaned, with appropriate dates and times recorded. 

  • The five steps to safer surgery checklist is appropriately completed.

  • The management and administration of medicines always follows trust policy.

  • Patients in the minor operations room (used as a majors cubicle) in the emergency department have a reliable system in place to be able to call for help from staff.

  • There are sufficient therapy staff available to provide effective treatment of patients.

  • The numbers of nursing on duty are based on the numbers planned by the trust all times of the day and night to support safe care.

  • Sufficient palliative care consultant staffing provision in line with national guidance and to improve capacity for clinical leadership of the service

  • The number of midwives is increased according to trust plans and in line with national guidance, to support safe care for women.

  • Staff attend and or complete mandatory training updates.

  • Turnaround times for typing of clinic letters are consistently met, monitored and action taken when targets are not met across all specialities within the trust.

  • All patient records must be stored securely to maintain patient confidentiality.

  • Risk registers at local, directorate and divisional level are kept up-to-date, include all factors that may adversely affect patient safety. And progress with actions is monitored.

  • There is implementation of clear and measurable action plans for improving end of life care for patients. There is monitoring and improvement in service targets and key performance indicators, as measured in the National Care of the Dying Audits.

  • Care and treatment in all services consistently takes account of current guidelines and legislation and that adherence is audited.

  • Consultants supervise junior registrars in line with RCOG guidance.

  • Continue the development of governance processes across all specialties and divisions, with a standardised approach to recording and reporting. Ensure the information is used to develop and improve service quality.

  • Regular monitoring of the environment and equipment within the emergency department, and action taken to reduce risks to patients.

  • Mixed sex breaches in critical care must be reported within national guidance and immediately that the breach occurs.

In addition the trust should ensure :

  • All staff report incidents and feedback is given to the member of staff reporting the incident, and learning from incidents is shared with staff and across teams when relevant.
  • The trust electronic incident reporting system is fully implemented throughout the surgical specialty.

  • Management and specialist staff have the time to undertake their roles

  • Resuscitation trolleys are tamper evident.

  • Staff follow trust procedures when patient group directions are updated, so it is clear they are authorised for use,

  • A recognised pain assessment tool is used in critical care to assist in the monitoring and managing pain for patients.

  • Pain score appropriate tools are used for non-verbal patients across the hospital.

  • Discharge letters are sent to GPs in a timely way and patients are given a copy .

  • Standards of cleanliness are maintained in all outpatient areas.

  • Patient outcome data is recorded and analysed to identify improvements to services for patients.

  • Staff working in outpatients always follow the trust interpretation policy for patients who are non-English speaking.

  • Nurse staffing on the children’s unit is reviewed in line with The Royal College of Nursing (2013) guidelines in terms of numbers or ratios of nurse to healthcare assistants.

  • Review of medical staffing in line with British Association of Perinatal Medicine (2010 Standards) requirements for sufficient medical staff on the neonatal unit at all times, including overnight (9pm to 8am).

  • Compliance with Facing the Future-Standards for acute general paediatric services (RCPCH, Revised 2015) requirements for consultant paediatrician present and readily available during the times of peak activity, seven days a week.

  • Increased compliance with recording of key metrics in outpatient services, such as the time the patient is seen, to enable data analysis to be more meaningful when used to monitor service quality.

  • Daily recording of data on missing notes for outpatient clinics, which is audited and actions taken.

  • Face-to-face specialist palliative care service, 7 days per week, to support the care of dying patients and their families.

  • The critical care unit access is secure to maintain infection prevention and control and the safety of vulnerable patients on the unit.

  • Service leads review how they use data to improve patient outcomes

  • The development of critical care ‘follow up’ clinics, in line with national guidance, in consultation with stakeholders and commissioners.

  • All maternity guidelines are reviewed to ensure they are up to date

  • Pregnant women’s mental health is assessed throughout pregnancy using a tool as recommended by NICE ‘Antenatal and Postnatal Mental Health’ guidance.

  • The use of a NICE recommended CTG evaluation tool which should be entered into the woman’s notes every time the trace is reviewed.

  • The use of a software package, with an individualised growth chart designed to more accurately detect foetal growth problems which are associated with stillbirth.

  • The development of a midwifery led birthing unit, in line with National Maternity review recommendations.

  • The use of the modified ‘Sepsis 6 care bundle’ in the maternity units.

  • The use of the Stillbirth Care Bundle developed by NHS England to ensure that all known measures are taken to reduce the chances of stillbirth.

  • Improved rates of dementia screening to ensure that all emergency admissions over 75yrs are screened and then appropriately assessed.

  • A robust system to support lone workers in the community.

  • Identify and develop a quality dashboard to monitor the quality of the services.

  • Implementation of nursing staffing acuity tool in child health.

  • Supervision for staff involved in children’s safeguarding.

  • The arrangements for children attending appointments in general outpatient clinics are reviewed

  • All staff caring for dying patients undertake mandatory training in end of life care, so that they have the necessary knowledge and skill to deliver end of life care in line with the ‘achieving the five priorities for care of the dying person’.

  • Cleaning between cases in day surgery is sufficient and there are effective arrangements to prevent cross infection.

  • Nursing handover on Day Lewis ward are arranged to respect patients’ privacy and dignity.

  • There are arrangements for more timely discharges earlier in the day (before lunchtime) and more effective use of the discharge lounge by all ward teams.

  • Governance arrangements provide sufficient overview of the quality and risks across outpatient services.

  • The emergency department environment is reviewed to make it more child friendly.

  • There are ongoing risk assessments and improvements in the environment of the critical care unit, taking into account the guidance set out in HBN 04-0.

Professor Sir Mike Richards

Chief Inspector of Hospitals

Inspection carried out on 28 October 2013

During an inspection to make sure that the improvements required had been made

At our last inspection at the end of June 2013 we found that people were not protected against the risks associated with medicines because arrangements in place for the safe storage of some medicines were not always followed. A warning notice was served. During this inspection we found that suitable action had been taken to address the issues raised.

Inspection carried out on 26, 27 June and 1, 2 July 2013

During an inspection to make sure that the improvements required had been made

We undertook this inspection to check that improvements had been made where compliance actions had been served at our inspection in November 2012. We also received information prior to our inspection which led us to inspect the additional outcomes.

Our inspection of the hospital included four compliance inspectors, a pharmacist inspector, a specialist advisor who has experience of working within NHS organisations and an expert by experience. We focussed on ten wards within the hospital but also looked at other areas as part of the inspection for the management of medicines and assessing and monitoring the quality of service provision. As part of the inspection of the wards we spoke with a minimum of two patients on each ward and relatives where available. We also spoke with staff throughout the organisation from the chief executive through to staff working in clinical areas. We spoke with staff from a variety of areas including clinical governance, human resources, doctors, nurses, therapists and support staff.

Patients were treated with consideration and respect and their privacy, dignity and independence were maintained. One patient told us that staff were “responsive and caring. When I am in here I feel safe. It is good quality care.”

Patients’ needs were not always assessed and care plans were not always in place to meet the needs of patients. Patients spoke highly about the food they were offered and were given a choice of suitable food and drink to meet their nutritional needs. Some patients had access to activities.

Storage arrangements for some medicines were unsatisfactory. This meant that the trust could not be assured that these medicines would be safe to use.

There were not always sufficient staff to meet patients’ needs. Staff had access to training but some training was not always undertaken. Staff told us that they felt supported however they did not always receive supervision in line with the trusts policy. Staff received appraisals.

The trust had systems in place to regularly monitor and manage the risks associated with infections. The trust had made arrangements to monitor their clinical audit plan. However, these arrangements may not have been effective.

Records were incomplete and did not always demonstrate that patients’ needs were met.

Inspection carried out on 13, 14, 15 November 2012

During a routine inspection

We spoke with inpatients and outpatients who told us that care, treatment and support options had been discussed with them. One patient said “I signed a consent form when I saw my consultant in another hospital. He explained everything in simple terms so I understood.”

One member of staff told us “There is no time to talk to patients”. A patient remarked “I think the staff have been cut quite a bit. The staff appear rushed” whilst another told us “My needs have been responded to promptly”.

Patients told us they felt safe in the hospital. When we spoke with staff we found that not all staff were clear on how and to whom they could report suspected or actual abuse of a patient.

Medicines were being stored securely but there were some instances when this did not happen.

We spoke with patients about the staff. One patient we spoke with said “The staff are brilliant you couldn’t wish for better” another said “On the whole I find the staff very good”.

We saw a system in place to report, analyse and review incidents but this was not always used to improve services. Patients and visitors were able to provide feedback of their experience of hospital services. During the inspection visit we saw several ways that feedback was gathered by the organisation from staff, patients and their relatives which was used to influence and change practice.

Inspection carried out on 7 October 2011

During an inspection to make sure that the improvements required had been made

People on the wards told us that they found staff very kind and caring, and the nurses were lovely. They told us that the treatment and care was very good.

Patients we spoke to were positive about the meals, one told us that the food was marvellous, especially the soups. We saw that meals were served as soon as they arrived on the ward and that patients were not interrupted whilst eating their meal.

We observed a notice on the door to the elderly care wards advising visitors that if they would like to assist their relative then to feel free to speak to the nurse in charge.

Some patients, on the renal ward, told us they were cold and we saw that staff turned up the heating when this was mentioned to them.

All areas were well maintained and we did not see any clutter in corridors.

Sleeping accommodation in all wards was provided in single sex bays and there were designated male and female bathroom facilities. This included the acute stroke unit and emergency medical unit.

We did not see people being treated on trolleys in the emergency department corridor but staff told us that, although there has been some improvement, it still happened due to lack of space.

Inspection carried out on 27 April 2011

During a themed inspection looking at Dignity and Nutrition

Patients told us were very satisfied with the care they received at Dorset County Hospital, describing it as very good or excellent most of the time. They said they had been treated with courtesy and respect and that their privacy and dignity had been well protected. They said they and their families were given clear information and explanation and had been involved in decisions about their care and rehabilitation. However, some patients told us that at times staff had been slow in responding to call bells.

Patients told us they felt their nutritional needs and dietary preferences were well met. They gave positive feedback about the quality, range and availability of food, including drinks and snacks. Patients who required assistance with eating or drinking were satisfied with the way staff supported them. However, some patients told us that the food is not always very hot and that sometimes mealtimes are a bit busy.

Inspection carried out on 1 December 2010

During an inspection in response to concerns

We spoke to patients in the accident and emergency department (A&E), the emergency medical admissions unit, two elderly care wards that specialise in stroke and dementia care respectively, one medical ward and one surgical ward.

Comments we received from patients we spoke with varied, but patients were generally positive about their experience.

For example one person said: ‘the staff are very helpful, it is an excellent hospital.’ This individual also raised concerns that the staff seemed ‘rushed off their feet particularly at weekends.’

One person commented that: ‘staff are very busy, but always have time to explain.’

Patients that used the service considered that food provision was good and no concerns were raised with us about the quality or quantity of food. One comment received about the quality of food was; ’food is OK, but not as good as my cooking.’

Some patients found that fluid intake was not always monitored. One person commented that: ‘[Their relative] was dehydrated over a weekend because of staff shortages.’

One person who used the service told us that ‘each time I have been in, they have asked my point of view’ about the care given.

None of the patients we spoke to during our visit raised any concerns or complaints. They were aware that they could report issues to members of staff.