THE NHS trust that runs the Countess of Chester Hospital has been rated as ‘requires improvement’ by the government’s health watchdog – down from ‘good’ in 2016.

In its latest inspection report, published on Friday (May 17), the Care Quality Commission (CQC) identified 18 breaches of legal requirements that the trust “must put right”.

It also noted 23 areas that the senior management should look to improve on.

However, inspectors also commended the hospital’s “highly-motivated and driven” staff for their “strong, person-centred culture” and patient care was rated ‘good’ overall.

They also noted that despite “a period of instability within the executive leadership team”, the trust had appointed new leaders and was developing a long-long term strategic plan.

New chief executive Dr Susan Gilby, who stepped in after her predecessor Tony Chambers resigned last September, was singled out for praise.

The report, which follows six days of inspections in November and December last year, states that she “demonstrates commitment and energy” as well as “uncompromising expectations of her team and of the quality of care she expects”.

The more serious issues identified by the inspectors included concerns over spotting signs of sepsis, which is a potentially deadly blood poisoning, and ensuring safe storage and management of medicines.

During their visits, the CQC team found that “fridge and room temperatures were not monitored and medicines were found to be out of date”.

The trust has also been ordered to reduce the risk that patients’ records may be accessed by unauthorised people and ensure all records are stored securely.

Inspectors reported that the hospital failed to achieve its targets for healthcare-acquired infections and the maximum four-hour A&E waiting time.

Furthermore, surgical services were not said to have enough nursing staff “with the right mix of qualification and skills” to keep patients safe and provide the right care.

The trust has now been ordered to ensure compliance with the World Health Organisation’s ‘safer surgery processes’.

The urgent and emergency care department also did not have enough children’s nurses to meet the national standard of two per shift, the report states.

To improve patients’ privacy and dignity, the trust must also ensure they “should not receive treatment, be reviewed, or handed over directly in front of, or next to other patients, or their relatives”.

The CQC has issued four ‘requirement notices’ incorporating the 18 breaches of legal requirements.

This means the executive team now have to send it a report outlining what action it is taking to meet the requirements.

Other positive areas that were highlighted include the complaints process, which was commended for being open, transparent and taken seriously.

The inspection team also found examples of ‘outstanding’ practice, such as the introduction of a bereavement recall service. This allows any relative or carer to be invited to the department where their loved one died to speak with senior staff.

Following the publication of the report, Professor Ted Baker, CQC Chief Inspector of Hospitals, said in a statement: “It was disappointing to note that there had been a deterioration overall.

“The trust board knows what it must now do to ensure all the necessary improvements are made. We will continue to monitor the trust and we will return to carry out further inspections to check on any progress with improvements.”

A spokesman for The Countess of Chester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust welcomed the report, which provides a “snapshot of the CQC’s judgement of the quality of care provided by the trust”.

She said: “While the report acknowledges that the trust’s new leadership team recognises that improvements are required, we would like to take this opportunity to reiterate our commitment to delivering an improvement in the safety and quality of all our patient services. Over the coming months we will work closely with the CQC to help understand the root causes of the concerns raised in this report.

“We will be taking the appropriate measures to ensure that there will be an improvement in the performance of the hospital and that any lessons learned from one area of operations can be utilised across the entire organisation where appropriate. This will ensure that we can get back on track in delivering excellent services for the patients and communities of West Cheshire.”