Good progress at Neath Port Talbot and Princess of Wales hospitals, independent review finds

The care of frail and older people in two South Wales hospitals is much improved from that witnessed by an independent review team last year; a new report published on Wednesday 23rd September has concluded.

Trusted to Care, by Professor June Andrews and Mark Butler, highlighted serious concerns about the quality of care and patient safety in some areas of some wards at Neath Port Talbot and the Princess of Wales hospitals, which are run by Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board.

Published in May 2014, the review was commissioned by Health and Social Services Minister Mark Drakeford after concerns were raised about patient care at the hospitals. The independent report made 14 recommendations for the health board and four for the Welsh Government.

Professor Andrews and Mr Butler have revisited the hospitals a year later and published an assessment of the progress made against the recommendations for the health board. They found progress has been made in all 14 recommendation areas. Six have been completed either fully or there are clear plans for implementation in place to give confidence they will deliver the required change. Eight recommendations still require more work – plans are not yet fully in place but sufficient action has been made to provide assurance in relation to essential change and standards of care.

The review found:

  • Action taken by the board over the last year has addressed the main issues which led to unacceptable quality of care and standards of services at the time;
  • There have been many positive and necessary improvements, including in the areas of hydration, medication, complaints and professional accountability – these areas gave rise to the original concerns;
  • Prof Andrews and Mr Butler said the leadership of the health board should be congratulated for maintaining a clear leadership focus and commitment to action in the face of other competing priorities;
  • Transparency and openness around accountability were supported by changes to communications and increased engagement with the public and with stakeholders;
  • Changes have been implemented quickly to clinical leadership roles at board level and a new management structure for implementation has been designed.

Professor Andrews said: “There is good news here. The public should feel significantly reassured about improvements in the quality of care and treatment for frail older people with cognitive impairment, which have been made in the two hospitals over the last year. “This does not mean Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board should be considered to have a completely clean bill of health in relation to frail older people in the hospitals.

“There remains variation in patient experience between wards and services, especially at Princess of Wales Hospital. And more needs to be done on a continuing basis to improve standards and professional practices, especially where this requires team-working between nursing, medical, other clinical staff and managers.

“Those involved are to be congratulated for work so far, and to be encouraged to keep improving, as they try to increase confidence, trust and respect in local and national communities.

“Our overall conclusion is the chances of serious problems recurring have been reduced greatly by action already taken at ABMU. We believe that further improvement can be expected from plans that are now in place for the future, which are in line with the recommendations from our original report.”

However, the review has said that more action needs to be taken in several areas to meet all the specific recommendations made in Trusted to Care. The Welsh Government will continue to monitor implementation of the recommendations in the coming year.

The original Trusted To Care report made four recommendations for the Welsh Government. The report of the steering group set up by the Minister is being published today confirming these actions have been met. It also sets out the learning across Wales from the unannounced spot checks programme.

Health and Social Services Minister Mark Drakeford said: “After the original Trusted to Care report was published, I ordered a series of unannounced spot checks to assure the public that the care provided to older people in our hospitals is safe and compassionate. Those spot checks showed this is overwhelmingly the case.

“I am pleased that June Andrews, Mark Butler and their team have found that Neath Port Talbot and Princess of Wales hospitals have made progress against their original recommendations and I expect the health board to continue this work.

“This process has shown that when problems are identified in the Welsh NHS, we take immediate action to address them and make sure the best possible care is provided to patients. We will not be complacent and continue to strive for continual improvement.”

Aberavon’s AM, David Rees, has welcomed the progress made by ABMU in relation to care at Neath Port Talbot & Princess of Wales hospitals. Mr Rees said “The follow up report by Prof Andrews and Mr Butler identifies the great effort of the Health Board in addressing the previous concerns demonstrating the confidence that we can have in the care offered at both hospitals. Huge praise must be given to the staff of these hospital who have worked hard to ensure the quality of care patients receive.”