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South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust rated ‘GOOD’ following first comprehensive CQC inspection

A major inspection of community-based health services and acute hospital care has rated services provided by the newly formed South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation (STSFT) as ‘good’.

A team of inspectors from independent healthcare regulator, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), rated community-based health services as ‘outstanding’ and acute hospital care as ‘good’.  Overall, the Trust was rated ‘good’ with many areas of outstanding practice including its end of life care services at St Benedict’s Hospice in Ryhope and community sexual health services.  

Now one of the biggest healthcare providers across the North East and North Cumbria, South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust was formed just over a year ago, on 1 April 2019, following the formal merger of South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust and City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust.  

Employing over 8,000 staff, the Trust serves a population of more than 430,000 people living in and around the Borough of South Tyneside and the City of Sunderland, as well Gateshead and parts of County Durham. In addition, a range of specialist services are provided for patients across the whole of the North East and beyond, serving a population of almost 1 million people.

CQC inspectors visited the Trust’s services in January 2020 during one of the busiest winters on record for the NHS.  Some of the most significant quality improvements were seen in South Tyneside with the former Trust previously rated as ‘requires improvement’.  

The CQC also praised several areas of outstanding practice across all parts of the new organisation including:

  • a culture of openness and inclusivity promoted by the leadership team with staff encouraged to value and respect diversity
  • improvements delivered in the quality of care through the use of technology and the Trust’s Global Digital Exemplar programme 

Specialist services 

  • state-of-the-art regional vascular services and laser imaging equipment which is the first of its kind in the UK and one of only a handful worldwide
  • the effective delivery of high-volume cataract surgery and one-to-one nursing care at Sunderland Eye Infirmary 

Acute hospital services

  • innovative facilities such as the dementia-friendly Alexandra Centre which provides a day therapy suite for inpatients at Sunderland Royal Hospital 
  • care and compassion in critical care for people approaching the end-of-life with staff supporting a patient to propose to their partner, arranging a birthday party and also arranging a blessing of rings for an elderly couple
  • high recruitment to clinical trials in maternity services with staff committed to promoting the benefits of clinical research
  • strong performance in reducing waiting times for outpatient appointments which were consistently better than the England average 

Community services 

  • real-time electronic patient record system in community services allowing staff  to book follow-up appointments during visits with patients 
  • community integrated teams working closely with GPs and social care to complete holistic assessments of patients’ entire health and social needs 
  • improving the oral health of the local population with community dental services reaching out to vulnerable groups such as women’s refuges, drug and alcohol centres and the travelling community  
  • a patient centred approach to planning and delivering high quality community sexual health services 

The CQC result comes following a period of major organisational change with the Trust merger in April 2019 and clinical service transformation of some acute hospital services in August 2019 as part of Phase One of the Path to Excellence programme.  

Inspectors praised the board of directors for creating a ‘sense of common purpose based on shared values’ and a positive culture that supported and valued staff, stating ‘this had been achieved whilst going through a merger which was a significant achievement’.

As well as many positive examples of good quality care and outstanding practice, the CQC also advised where further quality improvements are needed as the Trust continues to embed robust processes and ways of working across the new organisation.

Chief Executive of South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, Ken Bremner MBE said: “I am immensely proud of what we have achieved in such a short space of time since we became one organisation.  This CQC result is testament to our staff and their unwavering resolve to put patient care at the absolute heart of everything we do, every single day.  

“Despite lots of upheaval and change, not to mention exceptionally busy times operationally for our services, staff in all parts of the Trust have kept their focus on what matters most – delivering exceptional care and compassion to the communities we serve.  Nowhere has this been more evident than in recent months as our teams have rallied together in response to COVID-19. 

“Our aspiration, of course, is to become rated ‘outstanding’ overall as a Trust in the future. This now gives us an excellent platform to go from good to great as we continue to build on our successes and listen and learn from this important CQC feedback about our services.”

John Anderson CBE, Chairman of South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust said: “To achieve a ‘good’ rating following our first comprehensive CQC inspection as one Trust really is a fantastic achievement for our staff and excellent news for the people of South Tyneside and Sunderland.  

“It has been an unprecedented time of change for local health services but this result shows what can be achieved by coming together and, importantly, the strength and depth of expertise that now exists across our new bigger, stronger organisation.

“Our staff have embraced these changes in a very positive way and they should take great pride not only in this good CQC rating, but in the exceptional way they have responded to the global Coronavirus pandemic which is evident through the outpouring of love and appreciation we have seen for our local NHS.

“We do not want to stop at good and I am confident under the strong leadership of our executive team and with the support of our Council of Governors and wider health and care partners, we will continue to innovate at pace and scale, particularly as we learn from COVID-19, to create an outstanding Trust for the future.”