NHS trust out of special measures after six years

An east London hospital trust is no longer in special measures for the first time since 2018.

Barking, Havering, Redbridge University Hospitals Trust (BHRUT) was found to have substantially improved its patient care, finances, its A&E departments and its management following a review by NHS England.

The trust, which oversees the King George Hospital in Goodmayes and Queen’s Hospital in Romford, was placed into ‘financial special measures’ in 2018 for failing to pay suppliers on time.

It also spent 2013 until 2017 in special measures, after the Care Quality Commission identified a slew of issues with its emergency services and diagnostics.

Matthew Trainer, the BHRUT’s chief executive, said: “It’s satisfying to have achieved this after ten years in and out of special measures. We need to build on our momentum and make sure we continue to improve.

“It also demonstrates the confidence our national colleagues have in us that we no longer require the highest level of support.”

The status of special measures is applied to public sector institutions that have been found to fall short of expected standards and are then given assistance to improve performance.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), the chief executive said the experience “hasn’t been a bad thing in some ways”.

He said NHS England had been “genuinely supportive” and the trust had benefited from “having their advice and support”.

Moving away from special measures would free up the trust’s leadership, who have had to focus on working with NHS England to improve services, Matthew said.

It also means BHRUT is better placed to bid for extra funding, such as the £35m needed to expand the A&E department at Queen’s Hospital.

The department, which opened in 2006, was designed to treat 300 people a month but sees around 600 a day. This can lead to patients being treated in corridors rather than wards, which the chief executive said he was keen to tackle.

The trust has been steadily bettering its A&E performance over the year. Figures published by NHS England showed it had improved greatly in the number of patients being treated within four hours.

Of the 28,000 people admitted to A&E in February, around 21,000 – or 75% – were discharged in that timeframe.

Showing signs of improvement will also boost staff morale and help the trust with recruitment, Matthew said, as it showed it was “taking things in the right direction”.

In a bid to cut down its waiting lists, BHRUT unveiled a new ‘elective surgery hub’ was unveiled at King George Hospital last week.

It will allow the centre to carry out 100 more operations a weeks – and wittle down its backlog of 6,000 patients requiring inpatient surgery.

The chief executive added: “While such recognition is really appreciated, we know we have more to do to make sure our hospital deliver care we are proud of, and that our patients are happy with.”

The trust is now aiming to move to the next category of the NHS Oversight Framework, which would mean oversight at a north-east London level rather than at a national one.

To do this, it will need to manage services within its budget, control staffing levels so they do not exceed funds, and increase planned care activity by a further 10 per cent.

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Sebastian Mann

Local democracy reporter