Published on: 30 April 2021

Leaders at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust have welcomed a quality report published today by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) following a focused inspection of its infection, prevention and control (IPC) measures. 

During March, CQC inspectors visited Sunderland Royal Hospital and the Trust’s community Intermediate Care Assessment and Rehabilitation (ICAR) unit based at Houghton Primary Care Centre and spoke with staff and patients. 

Despite anonymous concerns which prompted the CQC visit at the height of the second wave of the pandemic, inspectors found clear and effective infection prevention and control processes in place at the Trust to safely manage COVID-19, with a focus on continual improvement and many areas of innovation. 

The summary of findings, which have been published today, also found areas of outstanding practice, which included research into air-purifying and ventilation of rooms for patients undergoing treatment for Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) conditions. The Trust has since invested in air-purifying equipment to further reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in other parts of its hospitals, as well as ENT services. 

Staff reported to inspectors that there had been no issues with supply of PPE throughout the pandemic and that they felt respected, supported and valued by their managers and the Trust board.  The CQC praised the Trust’s open culture where staff could raise concerns without fear and which promoted the delivery of high quality patient care.   

Other highlights of the CQC’s quality report included:  

  • A clear vision and plan for continuously improving practices relating to IPC 
  • Clearly defined command and control structures that were ‘very responsive’ and ‘provided visible and approachable leadership’ 
  • A number of actions taken to reduce transmission of COVID-19, including restricted footfall across the main hospital sites, staff bubbles and temperature checks on main entrances 
  • A dedicated IPC team available 24/7 which was very responsive to requests for advice and support and had input into operational and management meetings. There was also a named contact for community inpatient areas, including ICAR 
  • Measures to reduce the risks to staff, including those at higher risk of COVID-19, including risk assessments and availability of enhanced PPE   
  • Commitment from staff to continuously learn and improve, including reviews of compliance and investigation and analysis of all COVID-19 deaths 
  • Strong partnership working and multidisciplinary working with external agencies 
  • Effective COVID-19 screening in place for patients attending the Trust’s emergency departments and coming to hospital for planned care  
  • Clear, accurate and up-to-date patient records which included ‘COVID-19 status’ with information accessible to all staff involved in a patient’s care.

The report also recommended some areas of improvement, including continuing with plans to provide strengthened support to community locations and providing further guidance for staff delivering rehabilitation care. 

The Trust was not rated following this inspection and remains rated ‘good’ overall with all previous ratings remaining in place. 

Dr Shaz Wahid, Medical Director and Director of Infection, Prevention and Control at South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The safety of our patients and staff is always our absolute priority and I am encouraged that the CQC recognised the amount of work undertaken to enhance our already robust infection, prevention and control processes during the pandemic. 

“COVID-19 has presented us with challenges we’ve never faced before and there will be much learning and many more opportunities for improvement across the whole NHS in the years ahead.  What matters most is that our staff have felt fully supported, valued and listened to throughout the pandemic and they have remained entirely focused on the needs of our patients.   

“This positive quality report from the CQC is testament to the dedication and hard work of our Infection, Prevention and Control Team, along with all colleagues at the Trust who have selflessly provided outstanding care to keep patients safe throughout the challenges of COVID-19.”