This week Worcester’s MP Robin Walker has welcomed two pieces of news relating to the Worcestershire Acute Trust, and this follows months of Robin’s continued work in campaigning for Worcestershire Royal Hospital’s much needed cash injections.

NHS England has announced that the trust will receive early access to £8 million to start work on the refurbishment of the Aconbury wards. The £8 million is critically important and is needed immediately so that the trust can begin ward refurbishment works to increase their bed capacity in time for the 2018/19 winter.

Robin, and his county colleagues Nigel Huddleston and Harriett Baldwin MPs wrote a joint letter to the Secretary of State for Health at the end of May. In this letter they called on Jeremy Hunt for urgent help, as without this already ring-fenced £8 million, the Trust could not commence these urgent ward and infrastructure refurbishment work this month. The 2017/18 Winter was a difficult period for the trust, as they faced extra pressure due to the extreme cold weather, and Worcestershire’s MPs were keen to offer their help and support so that the trust could enter the 2018/19 Winter as prepared as possible. Robin has been speaking with the Secretary of State for Health regularly during these past few months, and is very pleased that the £8 million, which had already been pledged for the trust, will now be delivered early and help the trust during a challenging time.

The Department of Health pledged the £29.6 million last year and since then elements of the money have been progressing through the system. £3 million of this money has already been spent on providing a bridge to wards on the far side of the road, and this £8 million announcement means the Department of Health is providing much needed funds for the trust.

This announcement also coincides with the publication of the latest Care Quality Commission (CQC) report. The last report in January 2018 identified improvements in a number of areas, while recognising that there is still much work to be done in bringing the trust out of special measures. The latest CQC report, published yesterday, highlights areas of improvement, but there is still a great deal of work to be done. Despite the difference that a stable leadership and management team is providing, there has not yet been any improvement in the trust’s rating for safety. Robin has often stated that the safety of patents should be the first priority and this has not yet improved as much as Robin hoped for.

The trust was placed into special measures in December 2015 and has been subject to frequent inspection and rigorous action by CQC during this time. Between January and March 2018, a team of CQC inspectors visited six of the core services provided by Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust across Worcestershire Royal Hospital, Alexandra Hospital and Kidderminster Hospital and Treatment Centre. The inspection was carried out to check on progress with improvements following the previous inspection in November 2017. It is currently rated as Inadequate overall and remains in special measures. The trust ratings remain Good for being caring, Requires Improvement for being effective and Inadequate for being safe and responsive. The trust has improved from Inadequate to Requires Improvement for being well-led. Although the overall rating for the trust has not changed as a result of this inspection, some services have improved, and this is welcomed progress.

Chief Executive of Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust Michelle McKay commented on the news and said:

“Every day, at each of our hospitals, colleagues in wards and department are working hard to further improve the safety and quality of the care we provide for our patients. Our improved rating for ‘Well Led’ is also consistent with positive comments from staff, highlighted in the report, about the difference that a stable leadership team is now starting to make in terms of our focus on quality and safety and our efforts to make staff feel valued and supported.”

“We would like to thank all colleagues for their dedication and commitment, which they have maintained despite the unprecedented operational pressures we have faced through winter, and into the spring. We know there is much more we need to do, and this report confirms that. We recently published our new ‘Trustwide’ Quality Improvement Strategy, which sets out in some detail how we will build on what we have already achieved and set ourselves challenging targets for further improvement. This strategy is supported by detailed plans focussing on the key areas of patient safety, clinical effectiveness and patient, carer and community engagement.”

“The good news is that work has already started on the long awaited link bridge which will connect the main Worcestershire Royal Hospital building with the neighbouring Aconbury block. This will give us easier access to additional beds in refurbished wards as early as the fourth quarter of 2018/19 subject to the release of the funds we need. While that work is under way, we are also focussed on making sure that we can attract, and keep, the best staff with the skills and approach needed to help us meet the challenges we face.  As well as improving outcomes for patients, this will help us to reduce our reliance on costly agency or locum staff, and make a significant contribution to our financial recovery plan. Everyone in our Trust, from ward to Board, understands the challenges which we still face on our improvement journey and we share the desire of our inspection and regulatory bodies, as well as people in our local communities, to see progress continue to be made quickly and sustained.”

Robin, commenting on the above news said:

“At the 2017 General Election one of my top pledges was to secure funding for the expansion of our hospital. I am pleased to see another step forward in this delivered this week with an £8 million injection of cash to provide much needed beds and capacity at the Worcestershire Royal. This is part of the £29.6 million capital investment that has been approved by Government last year, which will make a real difference across Worcestershire’s acute hospitals. I have been, and will continue to be persistent in ensuring that this money is delivered in a timely manner, and invested wisely. I am determined that the exceptionally hard working and caring staff in our local NHS are properly supported with the facilities they need.”

“Although I am disappointed at the long waits that were highlighted in the CQCs report and the lack of improvement in some of the crucial areas of assessment such as safety, there are some welcome signs that the Trust has turned a corner with management being rated more highly, and the CQC noting a wide range of positive comments from staff as to the approach being taken by the new management team. I have been impressed with the new Chief Executive of the Trust, and I have faith in her and her growing team to keep up the progress. It is important to stress that throughout the period in which the Trust has been in special measures the quality of care has been consistently highly rated, and this is testament to the hard work and passion of clinicians, nurses and other staff.”

Robin cont/d:

“They deserve the full support of local politicians in seeing through the change the hospital needs and delivering the extra capacity that has been needed for so long.”

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