Shaftesbury Hospital Services ‘Safe’ Says Matron As Staff Celebrate Inspection Result

Staff at Shaftesbury’s Westminster Memorial Hospital say they are proud that their work has contributed to Dorset Healthcare achieving the top rating from the healthcare watchdog.

Care Quality Commission inspectors visited Dorset Healthcare University NHS Foundation Trust sites across the county, including the Shaftesbury Minor Injuries Unit, between 30th April and 2nd May.

The CQC inspectors recognised a ‘consistent pattern of improvement in the quality of core services’ across Dorset. They found ‘strength, knowledge and integrity’ in the leadership of the Trust, ‘well-led’ services and ‘a strong learning culture’. They also highlighted some areas which need addressing, including recruitment and bed availability in acute mental health wards.

“It makes a massive difference to the staff and for patients receiving care from us because I think you do check about how good your hospital is doing,” said Shaftesbury Team Administrator Claire Williams. “If the hospital is doing really badly, people would notice. We should really celebrate that we’re doing so well.”

“I think it’s amazing working for an organisation that’s just achieved such an outstanding accreditation,” added Jayne Simpson, Community Rehabilitation Administrator, who works at the Westminster Memorial Hospital.

On Tuesday lunchtime Matron Helen Lawes led a brief celebration, where some of the on-duty staff got together to pose for a photo to record their achievement. “Three cheers to Dorset Health Care for their outstanding CQC award,” shouted Helen, over the loud wind whistling along Park Walk. “I would also like to say three cheers for the Westminster Hospital team, too,” Helen bellowed. And thirty-three of her colleagues cheered back.

Helen was insistent that all the available team got together for five minutes to mark their achievement. “Because everybody counts, everybody is part of the team. Every single thing that they do is just as valuable. You don’t have to be a doctor. Everybody is a jewel in the crown and that’s really, really important,” said Helen, whose staff-centred approach seems to go down well with her colleagues.

“We are team Shaftesbury. That’s what we like to call ourselves, and we love our Matron,” said Advanced Nurse Practitioner Debbie Langridge.

Matron Helen Lawes

Helen explained that the CQC was like a healthcare version of Ofsted and that their findings carry weight. “The Care Quality Commission’s job is to visit care homes and hospitals within the private sector and the NHS to find assurance that the services are up to standard, are safe, effective and that there’s good leadership. This is really a big deal for us,” she said.

Helen says the assessments have not always been so positive in the past. “Some of our journey has been a little bit rocky because we’ve needed to have some improvement in services. The staff has worked very hard in all areas throughout Dorset Health Care. That is why we are celebrating the fact that our hard work has paid off.”

This report covers all of Dorset Healthcare’s facilities, across the county. “It’s not just the hospital here in Shaftesbury. It is the mental health services, older people’s mental health services, some of our work down in Bournemouth and Poole with mother and baby mental health units, learning disabilities and district nursing,” said Helen.

Urgent Care and Minor Injuries Units were also assessed. The CQC visited Shaftesbury to inspect provision and the local ‘score’ was merged with that of the other community hospitals. “The inspectors have come to the hospital and inspected our services here. When they inspected the inpatient unit, the ward, they also inspected all of the other inpatient units. The rating was given for all of the inpatient services for Dorset Health Care,” said Helen, who feels both satisfied and relieved that her team’s work has not gone un-noticed.

“I’ve been in the scenario when they came and we needed some improvement. It doesn’t make you feel good when people see things that you need to improve. It’s been a hard journey at times, but we’ve got a lot to celebrate now, and to maintain all the good work that we’ve done. I’m really proud of this hospital, and I’m really proud to work with Dorset Healthcare,” said Helen.

Staff are clearly proud of the part they play within the Westminster Hospital and Dorset Healthcare. I spoke with some of the team to hear how they make a difference.

“I look after people how I would expect to look after a member of my family. My standards are high,” said Debbie Langridge, adding, “We’re very proud of the NHS and we want to keep it.”

Cook, Beverley Rowe, finds personal satisfaction from making meals that patients enjoy. And she’s keen to use veg from the hospital gardens. “It’s always better to have fresh, isn’t it?” said Beverley. “We get lots of comments, because we’re a smaller hospital, saying how delicious the food is.”

“What people assume hospital food is, I think, is nothing compared to what we serve here,” added Mel, who assists Beverley, often making sandwiches for patients. Mel believes that well-presented food boosts patient morale. “I’m quite famous for my salads. I think you eat with your eyes. I think it makes them feel a bit better. It makes them feel like they are being looked after a bit more.”

First impressions count and Liv knows her role as a cleaner is important in how the hospital is perceived. “There’s nothing more satisfying than making sure you’ve done it all nice, and you can see it looking so clean – and people notice it.” Liv says she sometimes stands back, leaning on her mop, to admire her gleaming floors with pride. “I always get a bit cross when someone goes and walks over a nice clean floor.”

Tracey Cole is a Rehabilitation Assistant and she has been at the Westminster Memorial Hospital for 24 years. She appreciates the team approach in Shaftesbury. “I have worked in other hospitals but this one offers an awful lot of therapy for patients to rehabilitate. It is certainly quite rewarding,” she said. “There’s a lady that’s been struggling for a couple of weeks and she needs to get home. She needs to be able to do stairs, so we have persevered and worked with her. She’s on her way home this week, so she’s thrilled to bits.”

Tracey can see the important role that the hospital plays in Shaftesbury life. “Back along, we were scared that the hospital wouldn’t be here. With the community’s support, it has stayed. I think it’s vital that it does. It’s an awful long way to go to the acute, where they come from, in Salisbury. There are a lot of elderly here and when they’ve got visitors, it’s elderly people visiting. So it’s nice that it’s on their doorstep.”

I asked Matron Helen whether a report like this CQC inspection helps strengthen the case for retaining Shaftesbury’s hospital facilities into the future. “Healthcare is changing and over the next ten years, who knows where this building will be? I don’t know. I believe that there will be services and beds in our locality. At the moment we’re very positive about the future and we’ll carry on providing and doing what we do, here on this site,” said Helen.