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Chief Inspector of Hospitals recommends The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust should be placed into special measures

19 October 2016
  • Media,
  • Hospitals

England's Chief Inspector of Hospitals has recommended The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust should be placed into special measures after a Care Quality Commission inspection rated the trust as Inadequate overall.

Following inspections carried out in June and July, CQC found the trust - which provides acute hospital and specialist services for around 350,000 people living in Harlow, Essex, and the surrounding areas - needed to make improvements to ensure it was consistently delivering care which was safe, effective, caring, responsive to people’s needs and was well-led.

Inspectors observed deterioration in the quality of some services provided since the previous inspection last year. There was a lack of management oversight in some departments and staff concerns were not always escalated to board level.

During the inspection, the trust had significant capacity issues and was having to reassess bed capacity at least three times a day. The bed shortages meant that patients were allocated the next available bed rather than being treated on a ward specifically for their condition.

In addition, inspectors were concerned that some agency nurses on duty were administering intravenous fluid care without the trust knowing if they were competent in this area.

CQC’s Chief Inspector of Hospitals, Professor Sir Mike Richards, said:

“We found a number of concerns when we inspected the services run by The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust and I have made a recommendation to NHS Improvement that the trust should be placed into special measures.

“Long waits in the emergency department and capacity issues in the wards meant that patients were not always seen in a timely manner, with many patients in the emergency department breaching four hour targets.

“Ambulance handover delays were also much worse than expected for the emergency department.

“The vision for the trust was not clearly articulated by the senior team and staff. The executive team provided us with different visions, risks and strategies for the future, which did not assure us that the team were working cohesively.

“We made NHS Improvement aware of our concerns following the inspection and it has started to work with the trust to make sure these are appropriately addressed and that progress is monitored.

“It is hoped that the trust will make significant improvements through receipt of support from the special measures regime prior to our next inspection.

“However, we found that in many areas staff were dedicated and committed to patient care despite the pressures of staff shortages and building which are ageing and in need of repair.

“We were particularly impressed by the early pregnancy and termination of pregnancy services in the maternity service which we rated outstanding overall.

“The trust was also rated good overall for being caring. Staff across the trust provided care that was compassionate, involved patients in decision making and provided good emotional support to patients and those close to them.

“The trust has responded to our inspection findings and we will return to undertake further inspections, including unannounced visits, to check that the necessary improvements have been made.”

The inspection highlighted a number of concerns and areas where the trust must improve, including:

  • Fit and proper persons processes must be ratified assessed and embedded across the trust board and throughout employment processes.
  • Risk management processes, including board assurance processes, must be reviewed urgently to enable improved management of risk from ward to board.
  • Safeguarding children’s processes must be improved urgently and learning from previous incidents must be shared.
  • Staff must be provided with appraisals that are valuable and benefit personal development.
  • Staff must be knowledgeable of and provide care and treatment that follows the requirements of the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

Inspectors also found a number of areas of Outstanding practice, including:

  • The ward manager for the Dolphin children’s ward had significantly improved the ward and performance of children’s services since our last inspection.
  • The tissue viability nurse in theatres produced models of pressure ulcers to support the education and prevention of pressure ulcer development in theatres. This also helped to increase reporting.
  • The advanced nurse practitioner groups within the emergency department were an outstanding team, who worked to develop themselves to improve care for their patients.
  • The outcomes for women in the maternity service were outstanding and comparable with units in the top quartile of all trusts in England.
  • The lead nurse for dementia was innovative in their strategy to improve the care for people living with dementia.

An inspection team, including doctors, nurses, midwives, trained members of the public, a variety of specialists, CQC inspectors and analysts spent four days at the trust between 28 and 29 June as part of an announced inspection. An unannounced inspection was also carried out on 2 and 5 July.

The trust has four sites. The main site is The Princess Alexandra Hospital. There are also smaller sites where services are provided including St Margaret’s Hospital, Herts and Essex Hospital and the Rectory Lane Clinic. CQC only inspected the main Princess Alexandra Hospital site.

The trust was rated as Inadequate for being safe, effective and well-led and rated as Requires Improvement for being caring and responsive. The trust’s maternity and gynaecology department was rated as Outstanding.


For further information, please contact Helen Gildersleeve, Regional Engagement Officer on 0191 2333379. Journalists wishing to speak to the press office outside of office hours can find out how to contact the team here.

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Last updated:
29 May 2017

Notes to editors

Hospitals are put into special measures when there are problems with the quality of care provided to some or all patients that the leadership of the trust cannot fix in a reasonable time without additional help. Often the decision that a hospital needs significant support to deliver improvements is made following an inspection by the CQC’s Chief Inspector of Hospitals.

The Chief Inspector of Hospitals will normally make a recommendation if he thinks a hospital needs to be placed in special measures. At that stage, Monitor NHS Improvement decides whether NHS trusts go into special measures. Further information on special measures.

The 17 trusts that are currently in special measures are:

  • The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust (subject to NHSI approval)
  • Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust
  • Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust
  • Medway NHS Foundation Trust
  • East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust
  • Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Wye Valley NHS Trust
  • Barts Health NHS Trust
  • West Hertfordshire NHS Trust
  • East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust
  • Cambridge University NHS Foundation Trust
  • Worcester Acute Hospitals NHS Trust
  • London Ambulance Service NHS Trust
  • North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust
  • South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust
  • Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust
  • Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust

The 13 trusts which have been taken out of special measures are:

  • Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (mental health trust)
  • Hinchingbrooke NHS Trust
  • Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust
  • East Lancashire NHS Trust
  • George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust
  • Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospitals (now dissolved, but part of Frimley Health)
  • North Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust
  • United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust
  • Queen Elizabeth Hospital King's Lynn NHS Foundation Trust
  • Tameside Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust

This report follows a comprehensive inspection on the quality of services provided at The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust. Inspection teams include a range of clinical and other experts including experts by experience.

Whenever CQC inspects it will always ask the following five questions of every service: Is it safe? Is it effective? Is it caring? Is it responsive to people’s needs? Is it well-led? You can find out more about CQC’s approach to inspection.

Registered providers of health and social care services are required to display their ratings on their premises and on their websites so that the public can see their rating quickly and easily.

About the Care Quality Commission

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is the independent regulator of health and social care in England.

We make sure health and social care services provide people with safe, effective, compassionate, high-quality care and we encourage care services to improve.

We monitor, inspect and regulate services to make sure they meet fundamental standards of quality and safety and we publish what we find to help people choose care.