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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals face critical challenges following loss of ‘outstanding’ status

Newcastle’s MPs have called for rapid and “remorseless” action to combat failings uncovered at the city’s hospitals.

The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the Freeman Hospital and Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI), has this week lost its ‘outstanding’ status.

Inspectors from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) say that the trust now ‘requires improvement’, with a report detailing allegations of a bullying culture and warning of a “significant deterioration” in leadership.

The healthcare watchdog’s findings have been described as “deeply worrying” for what is a flagship institution for the North East, downgrading two hospitals that have previously been named among the world’s best.

Newcastle East MP Nick Brown, whose constituency contains the Freeman, said the CQC report was “disappointing and must be firmly addressed straight away”.

Mr Brown, who now sits as an independent after leaving the Labour Party before Christmas, added: “There is much to be proud of in the city’s healthcare and we cannot allow any deterioration in the high standards we aspire to.  We need to take action firmly and remorselessly to correct the situation.

“At first sight, the core problem relates to governance. The report is a timely warning.”

The hospital’s new chief executive, Sir James Mackey, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that he would be taking urgent action to address the CQC’s concerns.

The health boss said that would include direct intervention from himself in Freeman’s cardiothoracic department, which came in for particularly heavy criticism –  with claims of serious incidents being “deliberately covered up” and a culture of bullying has become the norm.

Catherine McKinnell, the Labour MP for Newcastle North, said she had been assured that hospital leaders would “act rapidly to implement an improvement programme and deliver the health service that patients and staff expect and deserve”.

She added: “Newcastle Hospitals Trust is a vital health service not just in Newcastle but providing important services across the North East. The CQC report is deeply worrying and will be of concern to patients and families who access our health services.

“The clear failings that have been identified must be urgently addressed. The care and safety of patients and staff must be paramount.”

The CQC’s findings also include concerns about a shortage of staffing in the RVI’s maternity unit, which left it unable to provide “basic fundamental standards of care”, as well as accusations of favouritism and nepotism within the trust.

Chi Onwurah, the Labour MP for Newcastle Central, said: “Like most of my constituents, I have long been proud of the quality of care offered by fantastic NHS staff at Newcastle Hospitals and considered it amongst the best in the world. I am therefore extremely concerned by this report and the hospitals’ loss of their outstanding rating.

“I have been in close contact with Sir James Mackey, the CEO, and he assures me that there are no issues with quality of care or treatment and the concerns over patient safety are limited to the cardiothoracic department.

“He has told me he accepts the report and the trust is absolutely determined to ensure that in future all patients and staff are safe, secure and treated with respect. I look forward to seeing the kind of cultural and organisational change which puts Newcastle Hospitals Trust once more amongst the best in the world.”

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