Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust was previously rated “good” by the Care Quality Commission, but inspectors upgraded that to “outstanding” after a visit in May this year.
“Inpatient, specialist and community nurses were able to give patients and their families extra time for support”
Patients and relatives told the inspection team how staff “went the extra mile” and that the care they provided “exceeded expectations”, according to the inspection report.
Meanwhile, inspectors noted a “healthy and authentic culture of valuing staff, openness, fairness and putting the patient at the hearts of every policy, strategy and service delivered”.
For this latest inspection visit, the CQC focused on four core services – sexual health, urgent emergency care, end of life care and community dental services – as well as assessing trust leadership and management.
In particular, inspectors identified many examples of innovative and highly effective nursing care, including when it came to urgent care services delivered via seven nurse-led minor injury units.
“Patient feedback about the care given by staff was unanimously positive with many examples given of a service that took great care of its patients and treated them with compassion, dignity and respect,” said the report.
Inspectors found leadership of the service at all levels “created a culture that meant that staff enjoyed their jobs and wanted to stay working with the organisation”.
“I am particularly proud of the way the CQC witnessed how caring our staff are and the strong and authentic culture that we have”
They also highlighted career development opportunities in urgent care, including a programme validated by a local university to enable junior staff to become emergency nurse practitioners.
“We saw all members of the team were involved in making the patient experience as positive as possible from the first contact with the reception staff to the clinical assessments and treatment by the nurses and healthcare assistants,” said the inspection report.
Inspectors identified “outstanding” practice in the end of life care provided by all trust staff supported by a nurse consultant for end of life care and a lead practitioner for palliative and end of life care based in the trust’s nursing and quality team.
“Across all areas we visited staff told us they were committed and passionate about the end of life care they provided to patients,” said the CQC in its report.
All clinical teams working with patients nearing the end of life had “end of life champions”, “who provide a local point of expertise to frontline colleagues”, the report noted.
“Inpatient, specialist and community nurses were able to give patients and their families extra time for support in situations where those being supported had additional needs,” said the report.
In sexual health, which was rated “outstanding” overall, inspectors found “doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals supported each other to provide excellent care”.
“It has been evident to me how hard everyone at the trust works to make sure patient care is right”
Examples of exemplary practice included a joint project between the sexual health service and community learning disabilities service to improve access for people with learning disabilities, provide longer appointments and ensure their needs were met.
Online sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment as well as virtual and Skype consultations had been introduced to improve services and reduced waiting times in clinics. The service had also increased its outreach provision such as running prison-based services.
Inspectors flagged up the “comprehensive and supportive induction plan for all clinicians”. “This provided nurses the opportunities to complete key skills training as well as the practical opportunities to support learning,” said the report.
Inspectors went on to note trust-wide efforts “to dissolve bureaucracy, improve accountability, value and empower all staff”.
“There was a strong focus on supporting staff to take risks to improve service delivery and move away from a ‘fear of failure’ being a barrier to the evolution of the organisation,” said the report.
It also praised the trust’s “effective and embedded talent management strategy”, including the development of its own academy.
Trust chief executive Paul Bentley said he was delighted and “extraordinarily proud” that the organisation had been rated outstanding overall.
“Every day our teams come to work and deliver our values – caring, aspirational, responsive and excellent – making sure every person we serve has the best possible care and the CQC’s report reflects this commitment,” he said.
“Indeed, our priorities – developed annually with our staff, patients and partners – centre very much on what is important to us and what matters for the people we care for.
“In the report, I am particularly proud of the way the CQC witnessed how caring our staff are and the strong and authentic culture that we have of valuing our workforce,” said Mr Bentley.
He also stressed the achievement of moving from good to outstanding “in a system as challenged as Kent and Medway” and said strong leadership from the trust board had played its part.
“An outstanding rating is a huge tribute to the work of our people and well deserved, but it is a platform from which to do even better,” he added.
Trust chair John Goulston said the CQC rating was “wonderful news”.
“I joined the trust as its chair last year and since that time, it has been evident to me how hard everyone at the trust works to make sure patient care is right, every single time and that our service users are seen in the right place at the right time by the right service,” he said.
“While we celebrate this significant achievement, we have not lost sight of the fact that as rewarding as the inspection rating is, we must now continue to demonstrate that we are truly outstanding, now and as importantly, in the future,” he added.