THE country’s top hospital inspector is calling for the troubled Morecambe Bay hospitals trust to be placed in ‘special measures’.

Professor Sir Mike Richards said the trust should be put on an emergency plan, which could include intervention by health watchdog Monitor or it being ‘buddied up’ with another trust.

“There is a long history of concern with the quality of service provided by the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust so it is disappointing to report that a number of the issues that have been identified in the past remain unresolved,” said Prof Richards.


“I do not believe that the trust is likely to resolve its challenges without external support. This is why I am recommending that the trust is placed in to special measures.”

The call comes after a damning report, leaked to the Gazette last week and published today, revealed the trust to be operating at an ‘inadequate’ level.

The report followed an inspection carried out in February at Westmorland General Hospital (WGH), Furness General Hospital (FGH) and the Royal Lancaster Infirmary (RLI), by regulator, the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

According to a statement released by the hospital trust, the Kendal site was given an overall ‘good’ rating, but both RLI and FGH were found to ‘require improvements’.

Medical care at RLI was found to be inadequate.

This morning, Jackie Daniel, chief executive of the trust, said she was ‘incredibly disappointed’ by news that the trust now faces crisis measures.

However, she said it ‘isn’t an overnight job to change the culture of a large and complex organisation’.

“I believe that ‘special measures’ will provide the trust with focused support to make further change in a number of core areas and we welcome this assistance,” she said.

“We will use these reports as the springboard for further, positive improvement.”

The Gazette reported last week how inspectors found several issues during their time with the trust – which serves around 365,000 people – including staffing difficulties which had put patients at risk of ‘avoidable harm’, more ‘never events’ than similar trusts, problems with outpatient appointments and concerns that staff felt disengaged and ‘remote’ from the executive team.

John Hutton, acting chair of the trust, welcomed the ‘package of support’ the trust will be offered.

“It is important that we don’t lose sight of the good work that has taken place so far and this further support will ensure that we don’t take our eyes off the ball and continue to move forward.”

Dr Hugh Reeve, a Grange GP and chair of the Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group, also expressed his disappointment at the news.

But he said: “Today's report highlights the urgent need for this work to continue to ensure patients receive the best standards of care for generations to come.”

Several areas were found to be ‘good’ including maternity care at WGH, intensive care at RLI and A&E at both FGH and RLI.

The Care Quality Commission has now presented its findings to a local ‘quality summit’, which will develop a plan of action.

“We have found a lack of clarity about the trust's plans for the future,” said Prof Richards.

“The trust and partner agencies will be developing an action plan to address the identified shortfalls and my inspectors will return to the trust to follow up on improvements in due course.”