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Southampton General Hospital Requires improvement


Inspection carried out on 4 - 6 Dec 2018, 22 - 24 Jan 2019

During a routine inspection

Our rating of services went down. We rated it them as requires improvement because:

In rating the trust, we considered the current ratings of four other services not inspected this time.

  • In the emergency department services, we found there were delays in triage of patients that could impact on the health and well-being of patients.
  • In medicine we found that not all paper records were stored securely to protect patients.
  • In outpatients, we found infection control procedures were not fully applied.
  • There were challenges with the aging estates for fire, water, electricity, and ventilation maintenance. The patient environments were showing significant signs of wear and tear.
  • In outpatients there was not always the capacity to meet the needs of patients and their relatives attending.
  • In outpatients the risks were significant to patients due to delays for waiting for ophthalmology appointments.
  • In several services not all staff had recent updated mandatory training.
  • Complaint responses were very detailed and had contributed to delays responding to patients.


  • Staff understood their responsibilities to raise concerns, to record safety incidents, concerns and near misses and to report them internally and externally.
  • The trust had established an integrated medical examiner group (IMEG) to review all deaths twice daily Monday to Fridays.
  • Staffing levels, skill mix and caseloads were planned and reviewed so that people received safe care and treatment.
  • Staff had access to necessary equipment and medicines; and had a range of policies and procedures based on national standards to support their practice.
  • Medicines were appropriately prescribed and administered to people in line with the relevant legislation and current national guidance and had improved since our last inspection.
  • People’s physical, mental health and social needs were holistically assessed and their care and treatment delivered in line with legislation, standards and evidence-based guidance.
  • Multidisciplinary working was strong across the services. Staff worked well together and with other organisations to deliver effective care and treatment.
  • The services had clear arrangements for supporting and managing staff to deliver effective care and treatment.
  • Staff had annual appraisals and managers encouraged staff and supported opportunities for development.
  • Staff were kind, caring and treated patients with dignity and respect. Patients spoke of the positive care they received from staff.
  • Staff communicated with people so they understood their care, treatment and condition; and advice was given when required. Staff involved carers and families in the patient’s care, where appropriate.
  • Services delivered were accessible and responsive to people with complex needs or in vulnerable circumstances.
  • The trust was recognised as one of 16 exemplar Global Digital acute trusts in England. A benefit for staff and patients was through the medical patient records (My medical record) being accessible to patients and promoting supportive management of long term conditions.
  • The use of electronic white boards had been introduced for improving patient safety.
  • The volunteers for the trust, worked at the hospitals and were involved with a wide range of activities including hospital radio, patient support and chaplaincy and spiritual care.

We saw several areas of outstanding practice:

In Urgent and emergency care for example:

  • The trust was actively engaged in research across a wide spectrum of clinical conditions. Further, the service was also participating in research associated with the psychological impact of bereaved families whose relatives had been lost due to major trauma incidents.
  • Careful planning and consideration had been given to meeting the needs of the local population. Environmental changes including the development and building of the new enhanced care suite and the children’s emergency department were exemplar examples.
  • The arrangements for supporting vulnerable patients and other service users was exceptional. The knowledge and resources within the vulnerable adult support team ensured patients were supported in line with national best practice standards.
  • Staff were supported to access post-graduate training. This ensured the skill mix and competency of staff was of a level which promoted excellent multi-professional led care.
  • The department had recently introduced a comprehensive care bundle which was observed to be consistently used. The care bundle prompted staff to complete rapid assessments across a range of health measures including physical observations, falls risks and skin integrity, sepsis screening, peripheral cannula insertion records and visual infusion phlebitis management. Staff also consistently used hourly safety checklists which prompted staff to consider pain management, vital signs, level of consciousness, nutrition and hydration needs and speciality referrals for those who were identified as being vulnerable for example.
  • We observed rapid attendance of clinical specialities to the emergency department when pre-alert calls were received from the ambulance service. Health professionals were well prepared and were aware of their roles and responsibilities for managing specific conditions.
  • The trust had undertaken extensive work to ensure patients arriving by ambulance were handed over as quickly as possible in order ambulances could return to service to treat pre-hospital patients. Nurses were trained to undertake rapid assessments of patients, supported by a consultant.
  • There were several patient groups with a mixture of mental health, substance misuse and chronic medical problems that benefited from a consistent response from health professionals. To help frequent attenders to the emergency department (ED), monthly meetings called, “The high intensity service users’ group”, chaired by an ED consultant had been established. In the meeting, patients were discussed and a care plan was agreed which may alter behaviours and contribute more constructively to the patient’s needs.
  • The hospital had developed a frailty team who provided rapid assessments of patients in the ED who met certain referral criterial.
  • We observed episodes of care during which patients were truly respected and valued as individuals. Patients were empowered as partners in their care both practically and emotionally.
  • We considered the leadership team to be cohesive, with heightened visibility and presence across the department and well respected by peers and colleagues.

In Medical care services:

  • The trust introduced registered 18 pets as therapy dogs for both child and adult services. These pets visited the stroke and dementia wards regularly.
  • The trust had introduced ‘Eat, Drink, Move” initiative which had improved patient outcomes.
  • The trust achieved best practice tariff status in quarter 3 of 2017. A Best Practice Tariff (BPT) is a national price paid to providers that is designed to incentivise high quality and cost-effective care. The aim was to reduce unexplained variation in clinical quality and to encourage best practice. Only 42% of the NHS trust in England achieved this.
  • The trust met all the four key national standards to enable it to provide a seven-day medical service.
  • The proportion of patients reviewed by a consultant within 14 hours of admission at hospital improved from 76% in 2016 to 92% in 2018.
  • All cardiology patients received a 365-day echo cardiogram service and seven-day consultant. This meant that all new patients and those with complex conditions received a consultant review seven day a week including weekends.
  • Reduced admissions were achieved through the consultant-led ambulatory care unit (ACU) where patients were admitted via several different routes, including GPs helped identify patients in the community who required medical intervention without the need to be admitted to the hospital.
  • There was a specialist emergency assessment unit for older patients with a new frailty unit, where patients received rapid assessment by a team led by consultant geriatricians.
  • The care of the elderly consultants’ locality based model improved the continuity of inpatient care, and with communication with patients and families, and with other healthcare services in the community.

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

Importantly, the trust MUST:

In outpatient services:

  • Ensure the outpatient service environment is kept clean and fit for purpose. Infection control procedures are in place and adhered to.
  • Ensure systems and procedures are in place to monitor and manage patient’s care and outcomes. Thus, avoiding delays in patient appointments which has resulted in patient harm.
  • Ensure complete oversight of outpatient services across the trust sites for the management and leadership, governance, risk and consistency of services.
  • Ensure there is a finalised strategy for outpatient services.
  • Ensure staff personal property is stored appropriately and securely when on duty.
  • Ensure patients are kept safe from harm such as by having working emergency call bells and observation of patients left in waiting areas.
  • Ensure the physical capacity of the outpatient environments meet the needs of the number of patients waiting and being treated.

In Medical care services:

  • Ensure records are stored securely.

Inspection carried out on 27-29 January 2017 and 7 February 2017 unannounced

During an inspection looking at part of the service

We carried out a focused inspection at Southampton General Hospital between 25 and 27 January 2017, and the unannounced inspection took place on 7 February 2017. This inspection was to follow up our comprehensive inspection in 2015 where some services had required improvement.

University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust has had foundation trust status since 1 October 2011. It is one of the country’s largest university hospitals, and provides local inpatient services to a population of 1.9 million people living in Southampton and south Hampshire. It also provides specialist services to over 3.7 million people living in southern England and the Channel Islands. The trust includes Southampton General Hospital, the Princess Anne Hospital and Countess Mountbatten House, and also runs outpatient services from the Royal South Hants Hospital.

During this inspection we inspected Southampton General Hospital only.

During this inspection, we found that there had been an improvement in the quality of services provided since our previous inspection in 2015.

Patients were at the heart of all major trust decisions, and this was clearly evidenced by the executive team and board’s adherence to the trust values, a pro-active research and learning culture, and consistent support of staff to deliver “ever-better” care. The trust was managing the pressure on beds and capacity to the best of its ability, given the wider health economy pressures locally and regionally.

We have rated the individual services of Surgery, Critical Care, End of Life Care, and Outpatient and Diagnostic Imaging services. These services were selected because they were rated as ‘requires improvement’ at our inspection 2015: however with improvements, these services have now been rated as either ‘good’ or “outstanding”.

We also inspected the ‘well led’ domain which examines the governance and leadership of the overall trust by the senior, executive and non-executive leadership and management. This part of the process was a short-notice inspection, and the inspection rating and outcome for ‘well-led’ can be found on the separate provider report.

During this inspection, with the Trust’s prior agreement, we asked some pilot questions about the application of mental health service frameworks within these acute core services.

Our key findings were as follows:

  • Staff treated people with kindness, compassion, respect and dignity. The feedback from patients, their relatives and carers was highly positive, and many people contacted us before, during and after the inspection to tell us this.
  • Staff at all levels told us of the inspirational and facilitative leadership of the Chief Executive Officer. The Chief Operating Officer, Medical Director and Director of Nursing were also widely acknowledged as providing a high level of support, knowledge and participative leadership to the staff they led.
  • The governance structures provided an effective, efficient and easily accessed system for staff to escalate areas of concern, and this drove continuous improvement to performance, quality, and service outcomes.
  • The trust had an effective system for reporting and recording incidents. Risks were known and mitigated, and staff confirmed learning and feedback took place. This was often, although not always, cascaded to other areas for maximum benefit.
  • The duty of candour was monitored through the online incident recording system, and supported by the trust’s ‘Being Open’ policy.
  • The hospital areas inspected were visibly clean. Cleaning schedules were used, were mainly up to date and completed. Cleaning audits for 2016 consistently met the target of 98% compliance by internal staff and by contractors.
  • Staff were observed to comply with infection prevention and control practices, were are below the elbow and used hand wash facilities where required.
  • Medicines were stored safely, securely and mainly appropriately. However, within the critical care environments, high fridge temperatures had been noted on a few occasions, with no assurance that action had been taken to remove the medications within.
  • Records were a mixture of electronic and paper formats. Records review showed that in the majority written records were complete, legible, dated and signed. However, in surgery we found concerns with the completeness of records and illegible signatures.
  • ‘Do Not Attempt Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation’ (DNACPR) records were completed well for the majority of patients whose records we reviewed. However, the care interventions in the end of life care records were inconsistently completed for some patients.
  • Safeguarding policies and procedures were in place for adults and children, and training was mandatory for all staff with the level of training undertaken appropriate to the individual’s role. Most staff demonstrated a clear understanding of how to identify report and protect patients from potential harm or abuse, in line with their trust policies. However, some staff in the outpatient departments were only able to demonstrate a basic understanding of safeguarding issues.
  • The trust had made significant progress with nurse recruitment since our previous inspection in 2014. Whilst some areas, such as surgery, still had high vacancy rates, overall the trust vacancy rate was reducing.
  • Medical staffing levels were sufficient in surgery, critical care and outpatients and diagnostic imaging. In end of life care, the palliative care consultant cover had increased from the last inspection but was still below the national recommendation. However, a business case had been written to address this and recruitment was underway.
  • The trust had a clinical effectiveness and outcomes steering group which monitored the compliance of National Institute for health and Clinical Excellence guidance, and quality standards.
  • There was effective multi-disciplinary working within teams in all the cores services we inspected, and with external healthcare partners.
  • Consent was sought and documented before care or treatment was given. There was evidence that capacity assessments and best interests decisions took place.
  • Relatives and carers were supported by a “Carer’s Café” held every week to provide advice and support.
  • The trust had detailed processes and staff in place to support patients with complex needs including learning disabilities and dementia.
  • Patients could access a range of nurse specialists for their conditions including diabetes, oncology, respiratory and urology.
  • The trusts performance in referral to treatment times was better than the England average, and outpatient departments consistently achieved the two week wait for urgent cancer referrals.
  • The trust had an effective system to handle, monitor and subsequently learn from complaints.
  • The four core services had effective local leadership, with visible and mainly approachable senior leads. Staff felt supported and valued, and were enabled to “lead upwards”.

We saw several areas of outstanding practice including:

  • The hospital has a large volunteer body of over 1000 people. Some of the volunteers work as mealtime assistants to support those who need extra help or time to eat.
  • There were outstanding examples of multidisciplinary team working and communication with safe patient care at the forefront of handovers.
  • The trust had a new ‘talent management’ project and ten staff had been recently accepted.
  • The neurological intensive care unit had developed sophisticated strategies to ensure the continued wellbeing of their patients who presented with challenging behaviour when cared for within an acute clinical environment. This benefitted not just patients, but also protected relatives and staff from the possibility of unintentional violence.
  • All the critical care nurses had completed specific training to give them extended scopes of practice. This included interpreting chest X-rays and blood results, carrying out peripheral cannulation, arterial blood gas analysis and making certain clinical decisions.
  • An early mobilisation programme initiated by the physiotherapy service on GICU, had won a Health Service Journal Value in Health Care Award. This was now carried out on Neuro ICU and had reduced the length of stay in the critical care setting and hospital for patients due to the success of this programme.
  • Care for patients across critical care was outstanding. Patients’ needs were considered at all times, and a high level of support was provided for the emotional and spiritual needs of family members and patients.
  • The critical care service worked closely with the palliative care team to provide timely and empathetic support for patients whose conditions would not improve. This service, in supporting decision making, had enabled 200 patients to appropriately enter an End of Life care pathway.
  • The success of a respiratory education package developed by the education team aimed at the full multidisciplinary team had resulted in it being adopted trust wide.
  • Neuro ICU worked closely with manufacturers to support development of service specific equipment. This included working with an overseas company to develop and improve intracranial pressure monitoring equipment and working with the provider of lateral rotating beds for patients with spinal injuries to best meet the needs of patients and reduce risk of injury of staff during complex moving and handling procedures for these patients.
  • In Neuro ICU, the mobile head CT scanner had reduced the need for patients to be transferred across the hospital, out of hours, for CT head scans.
  • University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust is the only UK hospital providing intraoperative radiotherapy.

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

Importantly, the trust MUST:

  • Reduce the number of mixed sex accommodation breaches in the acute surgical unit to improve privacy and dignity for patients.
  • The trust must ensure medicines are always stored at temperatures that ensure their effectiveness.

Professor Sir Mike Richards

Chief Inspector of Hospitals

Inspection carried out on 9-11 December 2014 and between 5 -15 January 2015

During a routine inspection

Southampton General Hospital is part of University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust. It is an acute hospital and provides accident and emergency (A&E), medical care, surgery, critical care, children and young people’s services, end of life care, outpatients and diagnostic services, which are seven of the eight core services always inspected by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) as part of its new approach to hospital inspection. The eighth core service, maternity and gynaecology services, was inspected at the adjacent Princess Anne Hospital (PAH), and the findings are in the inspection report for that location.

Southampton General Hospital is an acute hospital with approximately 1,300 inpatient beds, and employs over 8,400 staff. It provides a full range of elective and non-elective medical and surgical services to the population of Southampton and South Hampshire. The hospital also provides paediatric and adult care specialist services (with the exception of burns, adult renal dialysis and transplantation) to more than three million people living in southern England and the Channel Islands. Specialist services include cardiac services, oncology, neurosciences, level 3 neonatal intensive care (at PAH), and paediatric intensive care. The hospital is a designated regional major trauma centre for paediatrics and adults. There was not a designated outpatients department; outpatient services were provided and managed by core and specialist services.

The team included CQC inspectors and analysts, doctors, nurses, allied healthcare professionals, 'experts by experience' and senior NHS managers. (Experts by experience are people who use hospital services, or have relatives who have used hospital care, and have first-hand experience of using acute care services.)

The inspection took place on 9 to 11 December 2014, with unannounced visits between 5 and 15 January 2015.

Overall, we rated this hospital as ‘requires improvement’. We rated caring and effective services as ‘good’. The hospital 'requires improvement' for safe, responsive and well-led services.

We rated, urgent and emergency services, medical care and children and young people’s services as 'good'. We rated, critical care, surgery, end of life care, and outpatients and diagnostic imaging services, as 'requires improvement'.

Our key findings were as follows:

Are services safe?

  • National data indicated that the hospital was reporting more incidents than the national average. Staff were encouraged and found it easy to report incidents on the electronic system. The greatest proportion of incidents were low and no harm incidents. Slips, trips and falls and pressure ulcers were the top serious incident requiring investigation (SIRI) and action was being taken to reduce these across the hospital. We found that incidents were investigated and learning shared within services, but learning across services, such as in outpatients, could be improved. The reporting of incidents in diagnostic imaging services was not always robust and transparent.

  • In most services there was a culture of openness and transparency when things went wrong, and the hospital was well placed to meet the new regulations relating to Duty of Candour. However, the diagnostic imaging services had not followed this statutory duty when there had been notifiable incidents around patient safety.

  • The NHS Safety Thermometer is a monthly snapshot audit of the prevalence of avoidable harms, including new pressure ulcers, venous thromboembolism (VTE or blood clots), catheter urinary tract infections (C. UTIs) and falls. The information was monitored throughout the hospital and the results were displayed for the public in clinical areas.
  • The hospital was working to reduce the prevalence of pressure ulcers incrementally over time. The trust had a target to reduce levels by 20% over the year; this had not been fully achieved in 2013-14. Hospital data indicated there was a slightly decreasing trend for avoidable grade 2, 3 and 4 pressure ulcers by the end of 2014.
  • The hospital had a zero tolerance for hospital infection rates for MRSA. The MRSA rate was higher when compared to trusts of similar size and complexity but there had been no cases since July 2014. The trust’s infection rates for C. difficile was lower when compared to trusts of similar size and complexity.

  • The hospital was visibly clean and patient-led assessments of the care environment (PLACE) scored higher than the national average for cleanliness. Cleaning services were outsourced, but domestic staff were seen to be part of the ward teams.
  • During inspection in December 2014, there was an outbreak of Norovirus and appropriate action was taken to control and contain this, through closure of wards and bays. We observed, however, that not all staff were consistently following trust infection control policies in relation to hand hygiene; this was a concern given the outbreak. We brought this to the attention of senior management, and at unannounced inspection in January 2015 we found improved practice.

  • Safeguarding processes to protect vulnerable adults, children and young people were embedded.
  • Staff had access to a range of mandatory training and attendance was monitored electronically. Mandatory training on end of life care was not yet implemented.
  • Most medicines were managed and stored safely, but some medicines were not stored securely in theatres. In ophthalmology, a patient specific direction was developed under a patient group direction and healthcare assistants were administering eye drops. This was not in line with the medicines legislation and best practice guidance.
  • Some parts of the building were constructed before current building guidelines for health facilities were available, and this, along with the increased activity at the hospital, resulted in some areas being cramped and outdated; for example, the emergency department, some children’s wards and the general intensive care unit (GICU). There were also safety concerns about deficiencies in maintenance, particularly in older parts of the building.

  • Most services were well equipped, but there were shortages of some basic equipment across some wards and departments. There were also some delays in the provision of pressure relieving equipment, as the external company which provided them was unable to meet demand. Maintenance and checking of equipment was not undertaken regularly in some areas.

  • Interruptions to electrical power on the general intensive care unit interfered with lighting and the continuous functioning of some equipment, such as monitors.

  • The siting of a gamma camera outside the confines of the nuclear medicine department created a potential radioactive hazard. Mitigating actions had been put in place, but further action was needed to remove the risks.

  • Nursing staffing levels had been reviewed and assessed across the hospital using the Safer Nursing Care Tool. High levels of vacancies were impacting on consistency of staffing to these levels and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) safer staffing guidance. Staffing levels were reviewed on a shift by shift basis and staff moved across wards to try to mitigate risks; however, this led to concerns about lack of continuity and relevant skills to meet the needs of patients of different specialties. This was accentuated by the high number of, particularly medical, outliers (patient not on medical wards) across the hospital due to high demand and insufficient capacity.

  • Low staffing levels in diagnostic imaging services, in particular radiographers, was having an impact on safety.

  • Medical staffing was at safe levels in most services and there was an innovative model of 'lead consultant for out-of-hours' (work). However, there was not a neuro interventionist in the neuro intensive care unit at night, for patients who need critical care treatment, including respiratory support. There were neuro-intensive fellows in the unit. There was insufficient medical cover, particularly at consultant level, for end of life care services across the hospital.

  • New end of life care plans had been introduced on some selected wards in August 2014, as a pilot. This was in response to the national withdrawal of the Liverpool Care Pathway. Not all wards where the pilot care plan had not been rolled out were aware of the guidance issued. There were concerns that without proper documentation, care provided to patients could be adversely affected.
  • The modified early warning score (MEWS) was used effectively to identify deteriorating patients. Some areas, such as the children’s wards, needed to improve their use of the early warning score, and clearer systems were needed for the timely referral of patients, whose clinical condition was deteriorating on the wards, to the outreach team.
  • Care pathways were being used to standardise care for patients who were acutely ill.

Are services effective?

  • In most services care and treatment was provided in line with national best practice guideline, and outcomes for patients were often better than average. The hospital was developing end of life care in line with national guidance. The results of the 2013/14 National Care of the Dying Audit of Hospitals (NCDAH) highlighted a number of areas for improvement. The hospital had since made some progress on the implementation of the action plan.
  • The trust had a hospital standardised mortality rate which was higher than expected during April 2013–March 2014. This trust was regularly reviewing hospital deaths within specialities to identify and improve on areas where there might have been suboptimal care. Investigation demonstrated low numbers of potential avoidable deaths. Over a rolling 12 month period (August 2013 to July 2014) the latest data was demonstrating that mortality indicators were within the expected range, although the data required verification. There were, however, some diagnosis groups (acute and unspecific renal failure, pneumonia, cancer of the oesophagus, and cancer of the rectum and anus) that were mortality outliers. The trust was reviewing standards of care for these patients.
  • A new initiative of Interim Medical Examiner Group (IMEG) meetings had been introduced to rapidly review all deaths in the trust. The group included representation from bereavement care, pathology, the patient safety team, patient support services and senior clinicians. It was led by the associate medical director for safety. This has improved the quality of information on death certificates and the speed of death certification, information to the Coroner, the communication with families regarding concerns, and the recognition and improvement of patient safety issues, as well as the need to raise awareness about reporting incidents.
  • Seven-day services had been developed in medical and surgical services, and most critical care units, but improvement was needed in out of hours consultant cover for the neuro intensive care unit.
  • Staff were supported to access training, and there was evidence of appraisal and supervision.
  • Staff received relevant training and had the necessary skills and competence to look after patients in their speciality area. However, the need to move nurses to other wards to cover staff shortages, plus the high number of outliers on some wards, meant there was a risk that nursing staff may not have the specific skills and competencies to meet the needs of patients at all times. There were mechanisms in place to support the short term deployment, but some nurses reported they did not feel they always had the appropriate skills to care for patients.

  • There was effective multidisciplinary working across the hospital.

  • There were a high number of delayed transfers, both internal and external. Discharge planning commenced on admission, but timeliness of discharge needed improvement in some areas.

  • Staff had appropriate knowledge of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 to ensure that patients’ best interests were protected. There was guidance for staff to follow on the action they should take if they considered that a person lacked mental capacity. However, staff awareness of the requirements of Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards varied. The trust was developing policies to ensure the latest national guidance was being used correctly in all areas, including the emergency department.

Are services caring?

  • Staff were caring and compassionate, and treated patients with dignity and respect. The chaplaincy team were involved in undertaking a specific listening exercise on what compassionate care meant for staff working at the trust. The 10 key recommendations from this report were now being implemented across the organisation.

  • We observed outstanding care and compassion in critical care, and in children and young people’s services. Staff were person-centred and supportive, and worked to ensure that patients and their relatives were actively involved in their care. We also observed examples of outstanding care, such as from reception staff in the emergency department, who, although busy and working under tremendous pressures, made considerable efforts to reassure, inform and direct people presenting to them.
  • Patients told us their experiences of care were good. Average response rate of the trust for the Friends and Family Test was above the England average. Between April 2013 to March 2014, 73.6% of patients were ‘extremely likely’ to recommend the trust to friends and family; this score was, however, below the England average score.

Are services responsive?

  • Bed occupancy at the hospital was 92% (January 2013-March 2014), consistently above both the England average of 88%, and the 85% level at which it is generally accepted that bed occupancy can start to affect the quality of care provided to patients, and the orderly running of the hospital. The hospital had been operating at near 100% occupancy (measured at midday) in the months leading up to and during the inspection. Adult critical care was at 89.36% bed occupancy – above the England average of 83.24%. In the months leading up to and during the inspection, bed occupancy in the units was running at between 90% and 100%.

  • Despite the best efforts of staff at all levels of the hospital, to monitor and maximise use of available capacity, high demand was having an impact on access and flow throughout the hospital. For example, patients admitted for elective surgery who required planned critical care beds were remaining in theatre recovery areas for lengthy periods of time until critical care beds became available, resulting in admissions to the units during night hours.

  • The trust was meeting the national target of 92% of patients to be waiting within 18 weeks, from referral to treatment (incomplete pathway). There was, however, a backlog of patients waiting for surgery and the trust was not meeting the national target for 90% of patients to actually be treated within 18 weeks (admitted pathway). The trust could demonstrate that it was focusing on the longest waiting patients, and those with complex and urgent cases for surgery. Performance against this target was improving; for example, increased theatre use had improved waiting lists in trauma and orthopaedics.

  • Emergency admissions impacted on capacity and were adding pressure to services. The lack of available beds was resulting in cancelled operations and patients spending longer times in the theatre recovery areas whilst waiting for a bed. The trust had improved performance over the year, on reducing cancelled operations and patients with cancelled operations being treated within 28 days, but was still not meeting national targets.

  • The number of non-clinical cancellations increased at the end of the year when the hospital was experiencing extreme capacity issues and was on ‘black alert’. For example, there were 27 non-clinical cancellations for the week ending 10 August 2014; this increased to 55 for the week ending 7 December 2014. Systems were put in place to prioritise operations that should go ahead each day, and to give patients as much notice as possible of cancellations.

  • The trust was now meeting the two week cancer waiting time target for referral from a GP to see a specialist. The trust was also meeting the 31 day target from diagnosis to definitive treatment, although this was below the England average for cancer waiting times. The trust was not meeting the target for people to be waiting less than 62 days from referral to start of treatment. There was a detailed cancer recovery plan which included seeking specialist external advice from the NHS Interim Management and Support team.

  • The trust was not meeting the national referral to treatment target time for 95% of patients to be referred and treated within 18 weeks for outpatient services. In some outpatient services, clinic hours were being extended to evenings and also run on a Saturday to improve access. Waiting times for patients upon arrival in the outpatient clinics varied. Some patients could wait several hours to be seen in some clinics and were warned in advance of this possibility.

  • Bed pressures were compounded by high numbers of delayed transfers of care. Delayed transfer of care is when patients are in hospital, fit to be discharged, but are unable to leave the hospital due to external factors. During our inspection, 200 (16%) medical patients and 54 (6%) surgical patients had a delayed transfer of care. The main cause of delay was the provision of community services, especially care home places, to meet patients’ ongoing needs, and timely social care assessment. The trust was engaged with partner organisations in managing these delays to minimise the impact on individual patients and the service overall.

  • The trust was not meeting its own internal targets to review and discharge patients that were medically fit and could go home at set times during the day. Patients were positive about the discharge lounge and this was working well, but this was only used for medical patients.

  • The trust steering group was set up to improve discharge arrangements. This included plans to commence discharge on admission, and within 48 hours for patients to have estimated date of discharge and best interest assessment. Patients would be allocated for fast track, simple or complex discharge as soon as possible, and assessment and management would be supported by the trust's integrated discharge bureau working in partnership with commissioners, the local authorities, and the local community and mental health trusts.

  • The hospital had a rapid discharge service for end of life patients to a preferred place of care. A recent trust audit (2014) had shown that 47% of patients with cancer, known to the specialist palliative care team, were dying at home.

  • We observed mixed sex accommodation breaches on AMU, and the cardiac short stay ward; this compromised privacy and dignity. The staff were reporting when patients needed to be cared for in a mixed sex bay on AMU, but the staff on the cardiac short stay ward did not recognise these breaches. There was also a risk of mixed sex breaches in critical care services, when there were delays to level 1 patient transfers to wards.
  • Staff across the hospital demonstrated a good understanding of how to make reasonable adjustments for patients living with dementia or those who have a learning disability. We found examples of adjustments made for patients with a learning disability in outpatients and diagnostic imaging, and in surgical services.

  • The hospital has implemented an interpreter service. They also encouraged staff with existing foreign language skills to participate in a training programme, enabling them to qualify as an interpreter.

  • There were various printed information leaflets available to patients and their relatives across the hospital. All information for patients was only available in English. Patients could request for information in another language, but that request was also only published in English, making it highly unlikely that a patient who spoke another language could access the information in their own language. We did not see any information in an easy-to-read format.

  • Departments across the hospital reviewed and acted on complaints, and feedback, to improve services.

Are services well-led?

  • Staff were committed to the trust's values of putting the patient at the centre of their work, and were inspired by the CEO’s focus on this. They were aware of the trust’s vision and had started to be involved in discussions about updating the trust strategy.
  • In most services the departmental strategy and vision were recognised by staff. Staff in some departments were not aware or confident that there were clear plans and strategies to address a few significant concerns in a timely way.
  • There were governance systems in place to identify risks and for quality monitoring. But in some services, there was a disconnect between the risks and issues described by staff and those reported to and understood by senior management and the board. These included pressures on service capacity, staffing levels, and the safety of outdated and cramped clinical environments.
  • Across services, staff reported a strong supportive leadership from matrons, senior sisters and lead clinicians. They told us the CEO and senior management team communicated effectively with staff at all levels.

  • Staff were positive about working at the hospital and would recommend it as a place to work despite the challenges. Across the hospital there was an ethos of openness and transparency, and collaborative multidisciplinary working.
  • There was a strong commitment to research in the clinical environment, supported by research nurses.

  • Innovative practices were encouraged.

We saw several areas of outstanding practice including:

  • The emergency department used a coloured name band scheme for patients, as a direct result of learning from investigating falls in the department. Staff would know, at a glance, which patients had specific requirements, such as a high risk of falls, because of the coloured, highly visible name bands.
  • We observed outstanding care and compassion in critical care, and in children and young people’s services. Staff were person-centred and supportive, and worked to ensure that patients and their relatives were actively involved in their care. We also observed examples of outstanding care, such as from reception staff in the emergency department, who, although busy and working under tremendous pressures, made considerable efforts to reassure, inform and direct people presenting to them.
  • A vulnerable adults support team (VAST) was based in the emergency department, and worked across the inpatient and community areas to support and safeguard vulnerable adults from abuse and harm.
  • The hospital had developed a specific post for ‘lead consultant for out-of-hours’ (work). This had led to more effective management of medical patients outside the working hours.
  • Consultants involved with elderly patients worked on a locality-based model, and there were named consultants for patients belonging to each GP locality. This had helped to improve continuity of inpatient care, and communication with patients and families, and other healthcare services in the community. Patients found it beneficial because they saw the same consultant every time, and found it was easier to approach consultants should they need any advice.
  • A new initiative of Interim Medical Examiner Group (IMEG) meetings had been introduced to rapidly review all deaths in the trust. The group included representation from bereavement care, pathology, the patient safety team, patient support services and senior clinicians. It was led by the associate medical director for safety. This has improved the quality of information on death certificates and the speed of death certification, information to the Coroner, the communication with families regarding concerns, and the recognition and improvement of patient safety issues, as well as the need to raise awareness about reporting incidents.
  • The trust used an automated text system to alert staff about vacant shifts that needed to be filled urgently.
  • There is a strong ethos of quality improvement and innovation within the neurosurgical department, which includes the development of the first day case intracranial tumour surgery programme within the UK, which has since been adopted by other units nationally.
  • The general intensive care unit (GICU) had introduced early mobilisation for ventilated patients and this had resulted in reducing length of stay.
  • Guidance and a training package had been developed to support the managing of patients with challenging behaviour in the critical care setting.
  • The 'Uncertainty, Safety or Stop' cultural initiative in the neuro intensive care unit (NICU) was credited with giving all staff permission to say 'I do not know how to do this, and I need help’. This had helped to improve patient safety.
  • Consultants in the cardiac intensive care unit (CICU) arranged weekend meetings for bereaved families. Families were invited back to the unit to discuss their relative’s treatment and death, in order for them to better understand the patient’s journey and the reason why they did not survive.
  • Patient profiles were obtained in the NICU to give staff insight into a patient’s likes, dislikes and interests. This enabled staff to talk with the patient about subjects that would interest them, whether they were conscious or not.
  • The paediatric day care unit included a nurse-led service where nurses had extended roles. These included prescribing medicines and discharging patients.
  • To ensure children’s voices were heard and acted upon, the day care unit had developed the 'Pants & Tops' initiative. Through this initiative, children were invited to write down on templates what had been 'tops' or 'pants' about their hospital stay. Children who were very young, and were unable to write, could still provide feedback.
  • The children and young people's service used play leaders and youth support workers as advocates for children and young people. The service had an ethos of compassionate care and peer support, and social events were actively encouraged for children and for the parents of children with cancer, and long-term or chronic diseases.
  • The trust had implemented a 'Ready, Steady, Go' initiative to support young people through the transition from children's to adult services. Young people were involved in deciding when they were transferred.
  • The chaplaincy team held a listening exercise with staff to help identify what compassionate care meant for staff working at the trust. The 10 key recommendations from this report were now being implemented across the organisation.
  • The bereavement support team were involved in the co-ordination of tissue transplantation. They explained how families could get involved, and supported families through the tissue transplant process. As a result of this service, tissue transplant donation had increased by 300% (from 20 tissue donations in 2011, to 60 donations in 2013/14).
  • The Allergy Clinic within the outpatients department, had received a World Health Organization (WHO) award for excellence.

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

Importantly, the hospital must ensure that :

  • Nurse staffing is consistently at safe levels, to meet the needs of patients at the time and support safe care.

  • Equipment is regularly tested and maintained, and a record of these checks is kept.

  • There are suitable environments to promote the safety, privacy and dignity of patients in the cardiac short stay ward, G8 ward and all critical care areas with level 1 patients.

  • There is sufficient basic equipment in all departments, and timely provision of pressure relieving equipment, beds and cots.

  • The access and flow of patients across the hospital is improved. Discharge is effectively planned and organised, and actions are taken to improve delayed transfer of care discharges.

  • All wards have the required skill mix to ensure patients are adequately supported with competent staff.

  • No risks are posed to patient safety in the event of electrical failures in critical care areas.

  • All risks associated with the cramped environment in critical care areas are clearly identified and timely action is taken to address those risks.

  • Overhead hoists in critical units are correctly positioned, and in working order so they can be used, as intended, for patient care.

  • There is an effective process embedded into practice for alerting medical staff or the outreach nursing team in the event of patients deteriorating on the general wards.

  • There is appropriate management of identified risks in the general intensive care unit.

  • There is a definite plan to develop critical care services to meet the local and regional population health needs; this plan to include the provision of appropriate follow-up services.

  • The specialist palliative care team reviews the level of medical consultant support.

  • There are safe staffing levels in diagnostic imaging teams to prevent untoward safety incidents occurring.

  • Incidents are reported by radiographers, and there is learning from all IR(ME)R and diagnostic imaging incidents, and processes for Duty of Candour are appropriately followed.

In addition the hospital should ensure that:

  • All staff follow the trust’s infection control policy and procedures, in particular hand hygiene.

  • Avoidable pressure ulcers of all grades are reduced across the hospital.
  • Medicines are stored securely across the hospital

  • Emergency Department staff use evidence-based protocols/care pathways for a fractured neck of femur (a common presenting injury in the elderly) and head injury.
  • Patients who are readmitted to the hospital as a ‘failed discharge’ are effectively dealt with on arrival at the emergency department, and their details are always entered on the hospital system as soon as they arrive.
  • The national and paediatric early warning score systems are used appropriately in children’s services so that patients who are at risk of deterioration are correctly escalated.
  • The requirements of single sex accommodation are met in the acute medical unit and the cardiac short stay ward, and any breaches are monitored and reported, including when level 1 patients remain in critical care settings because of delayed discharges.

  • Information leaflets and signs are available in other languages, in plain English and in easy-to-read formats.

  • There are robust processes in place to meet the trust's allocated discharge times.

  • There are robust arrangements to meet referral to treatment times, but capacity and patient safety within the hospital are adequately assessed, so that areas such as theatres and critical care services are not constantly 'running hot'.

  • Patients admitted for elective surgery, who require critical care beds, should not be cared for lengthy periods of time in recovery areas while they are waiting for critical care beds to become available.

  • There is a plan to provide compatible equipment across the critical care services, so infusions and monitoring do not have to be temporarily disconnected when patients are transferring between wards and units.

  • There is a trust follow-up service for all patients who have been treated on the critical care units.
  • Medical staffing in the neuro intensive care unit at night is monitored to ensure the safety of patients who need critical care treatment, including respiratory support.

  • There is availability of CT scans out of hours, which does not have an adverse impact on patients being treated in the neuro intensive care unit.

  • The multidisciplinary team is involved when planning the development and refurbishment of critical care areas, to ensure the new environment will be suitable to meet the needs of patients.

  • Staff are fully engaged with the plans to develop the general intensive care unit.

  • There is a suitable environment in the general intensive care unit to ensure safe treatment for bariatric patients.

  • An assessment is completed in the general intensive care unit on the impact that the electronic patient records equipment will have on the environment.

  • There is an out of hours referral process for critical care beds by the outreach team that results in swift admissions to critical care services, releasing the outreach team to attend to other deteriorating patients in the hospital.

  • The dietician service is available for all patients, rather than just for patients who align to specialist areas of treatment.

  • There is dedicated time for staff to attend essential meetings, such as governance meetings.

  • The new end of life care strategy is implemented and embedded across the trust.

  • Relatives are consulted on the end of life care strategy.

  • All staff caring for dying patients undertake mandatory training in end of life care.

  • There is continuous support for ward staff to implement end of life care for patients post March 2016, when the end of life facilitators’ role comes to an end.

  • There is a review of the provision for teenagers, to ensure that there are dedicated facilities to meet their needs in all areas and for all specialties.

  • All staff understand the level of safeguarding training required for their role and how this is delivered.

  • The trust follows national guidance to test for pregnancy in females before surgery and radiology investigations, in children and young people services.

  • All protocols are version-controlled, and include references to information that has been used to inform their development.

  • There is a review of the provision of pre admission and assessment clinics for children and young people to help prepare the child and family, and ensure their needs can be safely met.

  • The impact of the current environment on services and outcomes for children and young people is regularly reviewed, and immediate steps taken to address any concerns.

  • Access to the children’s operating department is secure at all times.
  • The practice of nurses using patient group directions to produce a patient specific direction in ophthalmology, is reviewed in relation to the medicines legislation.

  • The culture and leadership in diagnostic imaging is improved.

  • Staff in diagnostic imaging are consulted and updated on improvements, particularly in relation to recruitment of staff and staff rotas.
  • The potential radiation hazard, in relation to the positioning of the gamma camera outside the nuclear medicine department, is removed.

  • Learning from incidents is shared across all outpatient specialties and all staff groups.

Professor Sir Mike Richards

Chief Inspector of Hospitals

Inspection carried out on 23, 26 April 2013

During a routine inspection

The inspection was completed on 23 April 2013 and we returned on 26 April 2013 to clarify some information with Trust managers. We visited 11 wards including older person medical, general medical, children's cardiac, neurology, discharge lounge, trauma and orthopedic and general surgical ward. We spoke with 27 patients and two visitors. Patients were positive about their experiences. They said they were happy with the way they were cared for. One person stated �this is a brilliant hospital; I would recommend it to any of my friends and family as a good place to be cared for�. Two patients who had previously received care at the hospital said they felt the care they were receiving during this admission was better than on their previous stay. People told us staff were available when they needed them. One said �there seem to be enough staff, day and night�.

We spoke with 44 staff including nursing, pharmacy, occupational therapy and medical staff. Staff were aware of how people should be cared for. Staff stated they felt they had sufficient time to meet people�s needs. We observed staff working in a professional and friendly way showing regard for people�s privacy and dignity. We identified concerns with the way people were supported with meals on one ward. The provider had already identified this and had an action plan in place.

We found medication and records were correctly managed. There were effective systems to assess and monitor the quality of service provided.

Inspection carried out on 2, 3 October 2012

During a routine inspection

We assessed the regulated activities, diagnostic and screening procedures, surgical procedures and the treatment of disease, disorder or injury. We inspected acute medical and surgical wards, orthopaedic and medical care of older people wards. We also assessed the discharge lounge and medicines management. The inspection was carried out over two days, six inspectors, a pharmacist inspector and a clinical advisor were part of the inspection's team. We spoke with 64 patients and relatives, 53 staff including nurses, doctors, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and looked at 42 sets of records.

Patients and relatives were overwhelmingly positive about the staff and care that they had received. Patients said that staff were incredibly hard working. One person said staff were "always cheerful and friendly. Patients told us that they were provided with information about treatment options and consent obtained prior to procedures.

Although people were happy with the care they were receiving we identified some instances where inappropriate care had been provided such as the failure to always provide specialised stockings to reduce the risk of blood clots . We found that there were significant staffing vacancies especially for qualified nurses. People told us that �staff kept changing�. Staff told us about and patients told us of delays to their medicines not being prescribed and available for discharge.

Inspection carried out on 12 March 2012

During an inspection in response to concerns

During the visits we spoke with fifteen patients on four wards, including wards for older people, a stroke ward and a cardiology ward. We asked patients about the way they were treated by staff, specifically how their privacy and dignity was maintained, and about how they were involved in decisions about their care. Patients told us staff treated them well, in ways that maintained their privacy and dignity. Patients said staff were friendly and treated them with respect. Comments included, �they explain what is happening and are kind and helpful�, �I received good care right from the word go� and �the nurses have been out of this world�. Most patients said they had been involved in decisions about their care, although one of the fifteen patients we spoke with said they thought their treatment had not always been clearly explained to them.

We received positive comments from patients about the choice and quality of food and of support provided to eat meals where needed. On the stroke ward we spoke with three patients who said they had received assistance to eat and drink when they had needed it. On the wards providing care for older people we were told that staff provided assistance for patients who needed it to eat and drink.

We spoke to several patients about their medicines. All the patients we spoke to said that they were happy for staff to handle medicines for them.

Patients told us there were generally enough staff available to provide the care and assistance they required. Patients gave examples of their call bells being answered quickly and staff responding to requests for assistance. Of the fifteen patients we spoke with, one said there could sometimes be a delay in staff answering the call bell.

Patients told us they were aware of the hospital�s complaints procedures and how they could raise any concerns they had, for example through the PALS (Patient Advice and Liaison Service). Patients said they had been able to raise issues of concern or questions with the ward staff and were happy with the response they had received. Patients were confident that if they had to make a complaint it would be taken seriously and investigated.

Inspection carried out on 20 January 2011

During a routine inspection

People we spoke to told us they were happy with the standard of care they received at Southampton General Hospital, and that nursing staff were lovely and responded to their needs quickly. They said that they were treated with dignity and respect, and they were involved in making decisions about treatment. They said that they received sufficient information to make decisions, and had been asked to give written or verbal consent.

Patients on surgical wards told us that they had not had to wait long for their treatment. However patients in an outpatient clinic for people with cancer said they sometimes had to wait for treatment.

People we spoke to were generally happy with the quality of the food, and some said it was excellent. Some people we spoke to said the food could be improved by more choice, including multicultural menus. Some patients on the stroke ward said they did not always get the food they wanted.

People said that the wards were generally clean, and that staff washed their hands or used antibacterial gel before and after providing treatment.

Patients on the wards told us that there was not always enough non-medical equipment, including chairs and wheelchairs. One outpatient told us that the radiology equipment often broke down.

People said there were enough staff on duty during the day and at night. There were many positive comments about staff, including the high quality of care provided and the quick response from staff. Patients said that they trusted staff at the hospital.

Most people said they had nothing to complain about, but they would know how to make a complaint if they did, and would be happy to raise a concern directly with nurses.