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Care Quality Commission

CQC Inspection

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Since the trust registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in 2010, Darent Valley Hospital has been inspected four times. At the last inspection in November 2012 the trust was found to be compliant with all regulations inspected.


The team included CQC inspectors and analysts, doctors, nurses, patient ‘Experts by Experience’ and senior NHS managers. Experts by Experience have personal experience of using or caring for someone who uses this type of service. The team spent two days visiting the hospital, and two further unannounced visits were conducted the following week. One of these included an evening/night time visit.


Maternity, outpatients, children’s services and end of life care were found to be good. In all services across the hospital, most staff were committed to the trust and said it was a supportive environment to work. Patients were generally positive about their experience and the care they received.


The trust faced challenges after the recent collapse of merger plans, and it had not yet developed an alternative vision for the organisation. There were a number of examples of good practice and examples of shared learning in the hospital, although in some cases the changes in practice in response to learning from serious incidents took up to 12 months to implement. The main challenge was the demand on the accident and emergency (A&E) department and the rise in emergency admissions. A significant causal factor had been the recent reduction of acute services in the immediate vicinity. The trust was managing issues on a day by day basis but not solving the key underlying problems, in particular bed management/capacity and inappropriate attendance at A&E. It is acknowledged that the trust cannot solve these problems on its own, as they will require a whole healthcare community approach.


The trust had taken action in some areas where staffing issues had been identified. This had included increased nursing staff levels on some wards, an increase in the number of porters in the pharmacy department and the recruitment of additional midwives. In A&E there were insufficient numbers of nurses qualified in the care of children and a high use of locum middle grade doctors, which had the potential to impact on patients’ safety.


Patients’ dignity was being compromised by the continued use of mixed sex wards and facilities in the Clinical Decision Unit where staff told us they always have mixed sex accommodation and the Medical Assessment Unit, which we observed as a mixed sex ward. This also occurred in the intensive care area when patients no longer required intensive care. Patients’ right to privacy was being compromised by personal information being on display in open areas, for example on computer screens in the A&E and confidential information being discussed in public areas such as corridors. The area in the operating theatre where people were received into the department also compromised patients’ privacy and dignity, as it was an open area. Since April 2011, the hospital’s bed occupancy rate had consistently been above the national average of 86.5%, rising as high as 96.1% for the period of April to June 2013. This was impacting on patient safety through the use of additional beds in areas not designed or equipped for this purpose.


In some areas, the trust was considering and implementing national guidelines, but in A&E we found guidance was not always being followed, for example with the management of children’s pain. Also some of the guidance that was available was not the most current such as resuscitation guidelines. Staff told us that the trust was a supportive environment in which to work and that training was available, though its own training records showed that attendance at the trust’s mandatory training was below its expected level. This was as low as 66% in some areas compared to the trust’s target of 85%. There was a system in place to monitor attendance at the trust’s mandatory safety training and follow up non-attendance, but this was ineffective in some cases. There were 285 members of staff whose training was out of date and were not booked to attend a session.


Overall, we found a culture where staff were positive, engaged and very loyal to the organisation. The staff and management were open and transparent about the challenges they faced.