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Blog on Being Outstanding - by Frances Hasler

An NHS trust in the North East of England has just been rated as “Outstanding” by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). Being rated as outstanding is rare – just four trusts in the country have been given this rating so far. NHS trusts in Camden are good, and have some outstanding services, but none so far has been judged “outstanding” overall.

So what is the secret of success at Northumbria Healthcare, and what can Camden learn from it? I’ve blogged before about this trust. They have made patient experience a central marker of quality, and appointed a Director of Patient Experience to their board. They publish patient feedback, online and on posters. They encourage and reward staff to provide truly personalised care.  

CQC noted that “Staff and patient engagement was seen as a priority with several outstanding and effective systems in place to obtain feedback.” They also commended the way staff “delivered compassionate care, which was polite and respectful and went out of their way to overcome obstacles to ensure this.”

Engagement was not the only ingredient in the success. CQC noted that there was total integration of all services between the hospital and community. There were excellent processes to ensure patients were cared for in the right place at the right time. Patient flow was a priority.

Of course, the context in Northumberland could not be more different to Camden. But I don’t think that means that local services can’t learn from them.

It is clear that focusing on patient experience and patient and public engagement is crucial to being an “outstanding” service. Patient centred approaches and engagement of both staff and patients feature in other “outstanding” services. At another “outstanding” NHS trust, Western Sussex, inspectors said:

“We were flooded with requests from staff wanting to tell us…how supportive the trust executive team were of innovative ideas,” and also that “the level of feedback from patients and their families was exceptional…..It was overwhelmingly and almost exclusively positive…The attention and consideration of peoples' individual needs and genuinely patient centred care was evidenced across the hospital.”

Locally, Camden-based Great Ormond Street Hospital was rated “outstanding” for being caring. The CQC said:

“The culture was very open and transparent. Parents and children were kept fully involved in their treatment….Children and young people were involved in decision making as far as possible….Staff were very open when things had gone wrong, expressed full apology and offered full support to parents, children and carers….”

We’re lucky in Camden to have some leading medical services – it would be great in future to see Camden services recognised for leading patient and public engagement, too. As the CQC reports show, it is more than a box to be ticked – it is a key ingredient in being the best. The pointers to quality noted by CQC are not about spending more money – they are about doing things in a particular way.

One of Healthwatch Camden’s core functions is to promote and support people’s involvement in the services they use. So we’ll be talking to local trusts, finding out what we can do to help them  implement the very best of engagement and involvement, and be “outstanding” in future.

 I'd love to hear your thoughts, so comment below.