Bugs in North Devon health check

COMPUTER glitches have been blamed for Northern Devon Healthcare s disappointing results in the Annual Health Check this year. Independent watchdogs the Care Quality Commission in its annual review of all NHS trusts in England gave the trust a Fair rati

COMPUTER glitches have been blamed for Northern Devon Healthcare's disappointing results in the Annual Health Check this year.

Independent watchdogs the Care Quality Commission in its annual review of all NHS trusts in England gave the trust a "Fair" rating for quality of service and "Good" for use of resources. Last year it received good for service and fair for resources.

But the trust says technical problems meant the commission did not receive all the data it was sent and so instead of being rated "Excellent" the trust was downgraded.

In a statement Northern Devon said it had consistently met all 44 of the core standards and was also expected to meet nearly all of the nine national targets and 13 priorities.


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It said the information had been sent twice, well before the required deadline and it had worked to track down what had gone wrong. An appeal was made but refused by the Commission.

"We can categorically prove to anyone who wishes to look that we have met key quality targets," said Jac Kelly, trust chief executive.

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"We are incredibly disappointed that hard work of our staff has not been reflected in this 'Fair' rating. We hope that people can see this result for what it is - a data error, and not representative of the quality of care we provide thousands of patients each week."

To back up its claim, the trust points to various inspections carried out by the Healthcare Commission (the previous name for the CQC) which paint a different picture:

l In March, an unannounced hygiene spot check at North Devon District Hospital found it to be among the top 10 per cent in England for cleanliness.

l The maternity service at the hospital is rated one of the best in the country by the commission and following a patient survey, the Accident and Emergency Department was considered by the Healthcare Commission to be one of the top performing emergency services in England.

l And in July last year, a patient survey on care received at the hospital also place it in the top 20 per cent.

The Health Check has been running for four years. In the first two Northern Devon was rated as Weak in both categories but had since raised its game to register a greatly improved score of Good and Fair last year.

Ian Biggs, regional director of the CQC, told the Gazette they recognised the trust "has made significant improvement" but added: "Trusts know that where data has not been provided properly for us to assess, it will affect their rating."

North Devon MP Nick Harvey was disappointed an IT error had led to the trust not getting the rating it deserved: "Its maternity unit, A&E and hygiene are some of the very best in the country.

"I feel it grossly unjust that despite an appeal, with the backing of the Strategic Health Authority, the CQC chose to ignore the hospital's efforts to remedy the situation."

He said the grading should have been 'Excellent,' instead all its hard work to improve patient services across the board has been negated by a simple data error that has needlessly made it look wanting.

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