Previously troubled Whipps Cross Hospital has officially been lifted out of special measures following a recent inspection.

In a report from the Care Quality Commission published today, the healthcare regulator highlighted tailored support for patients living with learning disabilities, the gender identity clinic, the Frail Elderly Unit and information and accessibility for patients as examples of outstanding practice at Whipps Cross Hospital in Leytonstone.

Barts Health NHS Trust which runs Whipps Cross Hospital was first put into special measures in 2015 after inspectors found poor patient care and a culture of bullying and harassment at the east London hospital.

Inspectors uncovered an array of serious problems at one of its hospitals, including poor A&E care, a lack of staff, poor morale and a culture of bullying and harassment.

They also found patients facing long waits for treatment, some not receiving painkillers when they needed them, over-stretched employees, an over-reliance on agency staff, substandard treatment of terminally ill patients and too little priority given to patient safety.

The healthcare regulator judged Whipps Cross hospital in Leytonstone to be 'inadequate' in many areas.

But now, four years after the critical report into the hospital trust was issued, the healthcare regulator has now formally withdrawn its inadequate rating and says the trust as a whole now requires improvement.

Alwen Williams, chief executive of Barts Health NHS Trust, said: "Today is a significant step forward on our improvement journey and a tribute to the skill and dedication of our 17,000 hard-working and talented staff. We are grateful for the support our regulators have given us in recent years.

"We will continue to address areas where there is further work to be done, and now look forward to charting our own course to becoming a high-performing group of hospitals, renowned for excellence and innovation, and providing safe and compassionate care to the people of east London and beyond."

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Alan Gurney managing director at Whipps Cross HospitalAlan Gurney managing director at Whipps Cross Hospital

Whipps Cross managing director, Alan Gurney, hailed the improvements made in a number of the hospital’s services and reported that the changes were mainly due to on-site leadership stability and the improvements to the hospital culture.

Mr Gurney who has worked at the hospital for two years said: "The whole Whipps Cross family should be proud of this report. We already have half of our ratings at good and many examples of outstanding practice. We can now push on with confidence towards ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’ overall. Thank you to our staff, our patients and our partners.

"In 2015, there were serious concerns around quality, safety, care, staffing levels and the culture at Whipps Cross Hospital. There have been a series of inspections from the Care Quality Commission during my time here, but I'm very pleased to say that each time the healthcare regulator inspectors visit they have noted improvements. That has been down to very hard work from our team to achieve that.

"Following the special measures report, an on-site senior leadership team was introduced at the hospital and that has enabled real stability now. With only two years at the hospital in April, I am still the new man on the team. Five out of the eight of us have clinical backgrounds which helps us because it allows us to engage with the staff and team.

"We have with absolute rigour focused with minute detail on the issues raised by the Care Quality Commission in its reports and it underpins our governance systems meaning they are stronger than they were in 2015.

"Another area which has been a focus area is staffing. The bullying culture and staffing was raised as a concern for the hospital, but we now have more than 200 more employees in posts at the hospitals and we have worked really hard on embedding our We Care values and the staff have really engaged really well with those.

"The really positive aspect of this report is that we are no longer in special measures for quality which provides us with our license to operate back which allows us to focus on the wider quality and improvement agenda and I have seen many doctors and nurses receiving the news and getting excited about new initiatives for bigger changes."

In 2015, Whipps Cross hospital had 29 areas which were rated as inadequate, now the hospital has no inadequate ratings, 26 requires improvement ratings and 31 good ratings.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Whipps Cross Hospital CQC rating 2019Whipps Cross Hospital CQC rating 2019

However, Mr Gurney recognises that there are areas where behaviours need to be improved.

He added that the hospital aims to continue to improve in its journey to get to an overall rating of good and outstanding, with a focus on achieving further improvements to permanent staffing levels and waiting times while reducing cancelled operations and delayed discharges.

He said: "When we look at where we have the biggest gains to be made now, it is around responsiveness. Whilst from a safety perspective we still require improvement, we have no inadequate ratings which we did have last time. We want to see improvements in terms of the service responsiveness and that I believe is where our overarching quality and improvement programme will come into effect.

"The other part is around outpatients. We are doing a lot of work with outpatients to improve outpatient care because we see more outpatients than any other group in the hospital so it is really important that we get that right."

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Whipps Cross CQC rating in 2015Whipps Cross CQC rating in 2015

The rating for Barts Health NHS Trust was amended after a series of inspections which saw three hospitals improve their overall rating and another hospital rated as good.

Half of the hospital is now rated as good overall, and no area is any longer rated inadequate which is an improvement since 2015 when over half of individual ratings had been scored as inadequate.

Although the hospital’s overall rating remains at requires improvement, the healthcare regulator recognised that services are caring having rated it good across the board, with services also rated good overall for being effective.

Medical care, including older people’s care, was also rated good in every domain inspected.

The report cited several areas of outstanding practice, including outpatients administration and abdominal surgery at Whipps Cross hospital, consistently outperforming national standards on cancer care, care for people living with dementia and their relatives across the trust, cardiac services and lung cancer care at St Bartholomew’s hospital, developing and supporting black, Asian and minority ethnic staff and addressing the areas of improvement required in these individual reports, including an intensive programme to raise the standard of surgery at Whipps Cross.

However, the Care Quality Commission outlined areas of concern at Newham University Hospital including the maternity services.

Chief inspector of hospitals Professor Edward Baker said: “Barts Health NHS Trust has made real, consistent progress. Credit must go to the leadership team at the trust and to the commitment and hard work of all the staff. There has been substantial improvement in the quality of services at the trust and I am happy to recommend that it is removed from special measures."

Barts Health is still in special measures for finance reasons and remains rated requires improvement for quality, with further Care Quality Commission reports expected next month.

Nevertheless today’s report outlined improvements across the board at The Royal London, Whipps Cross and Newham hospitals, together with improvements in the leadership, governance and culture of the trust as a whole.

The findings mean that two-thirds of all the core service areas ratings at Barts Health are now officially rated as good or outstanding including the group’s specialist heart and cancer services at St Bartholomew’s hospital, which were rated good in all areas, with outstanding leadership, in a previous inspection.

NHS Improvement's executive medical director and chief operating officer Dr Kathy McLean said: "I want to recognise the unwavering commitment of staff and leaders who have worked so hard to improve care for their patients and who should be very proud of this achievement. This is fantastic news for the trust and its patients and I am so pleased that the trust’s journey of improvement has resulted in this positive outcome.

"However, there is still work to do in some areas to ensure that patient services are the very best they can be.

"We will continue to support the trust as it seeks to build on the excellent progress it has made and ensure that further improvements recommended in the Care Quality Commission report are satisfied and sustained."