The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has published their findings after they carried out inspections of Urgent & Emergency Care and Medical Care services at North Cumbria Integrated Care NHS Foundation Trust (NCIC) in June and July 2023. They have also published findings after they carried out a ‘well-led’ inspection, which was rated by inspecting the Trust’s management team.

As part of the inspection, the CQC spoke to senior leaders in the organisation and visited A&E departments and medical wards at both the Cumberland Infirmary and West Cumberland Hospital.

Overall ratings for NCIC remain the same and the Trust continues to be rated as ‘requires improvement’ overall. However, the CQC notes that they have seen clear improvements since their last inspection of the Trust in 2020.

When it comes to how caring the organisation is, a rating of ‘good’ remains with the CQC highlighting that in every area they visited they found:

“Staff treated patients with compassion and kindness, respected their privacy and dignity, took account of their individual needs and helped them to understand their conditions. They provided emotional support to patients, families and carers.”

In Urgent & Emergency Care, safety ratings in both A&E departments have improved to ‘requires improvement’ and at West Cumberland Hospital, the well-led rating has improved to ‘good’. The CQC found low vacancy rates, low turnover and low sickness rates in the service and staff who worked together as a team to benefit patients. They also found leaders who had the skills and abilities to run the service and staff felt respected, supported and valued.

In Medical Care, they found staff completed training specific to supporting patients with learning disabilities and dementia and that staff understood how to protect patients from abuse and worked well with other agencies to do so. Patient feedback was displayed and was positive about the care and support provided. Key themes from compliments included the kind and caring nature of staff. There was also evidence of falls prevention work leading to a reduction in patient falls.

However, there were also areas of concerns highlighted with ‘must’ and ‘should’ do actions from the CQC which the Trust is addressing as a priority. Key areas to improve include: oversight of controlled drugs; staff mandatory training completion rates; ensuring we consistently control infection risk well; improving record keeping and addressing nurse staffing levels in some areas.

In the Trust’s ‘well-led’ inspection, leaders were able to describe the organisation’s improvement journey, the positive progress that has been made since the last inspection and where further improvement is still required.

Commenting on the report, Jill Foster, Chief Nurse said:

“The report reflects what we told the CQC as we were all candid with them about our challenges so none of this has come as a surprise to us. We told the CQC that we are focusing on leadership, culture and performance and we have clear plans in each of those areas which have already been progressing since the inspection took place.

“It is encouraging that the CQC notes the progress that has been made since our last inspection and now it is our job to make sure that progress doesn’t slip.

“I would also like to commend colleagues working in Urgent & Emergency Care and Medical Care services for the improvements they have made and, as the CQC notes, our staff are very resilient following the impact of COVID-19 and wider pressures on the NHS.

“I am particularly pleased to note the praise for staff in how they look after our patients with kindness and compassion. I know this means so much to patients and their loved ones when they are feeling vulnerable in hospital. The CQC spoke to patients and relatives during the inspection and they told them that staff were helpful, kind and considerate to their needs.

“I would also like to be clear that we are not complacent. We know there is work to do and I would like to assure our local communities that we are fully committed to delivering improvements and demonstrating further progress to the CQC next time they visit.”

The full reports will be published on the CQC’s website on Friday 17th November 2023.