PATIENTS can still have faith in St George’s reputation for excellent patient care, despite the Trust’s change in ratings in the Annual Health Check, says the Trust’s Chief Executive.

In the annual review of past performance by the Healthcare Commission, the score for the quality of services at St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has moved from ‘good’ to ‘fair,’ but this score does not reflect the Trust’s current improvements in care, says Chief Executive, David Astley:

“Last year, the Trust faced a considerable challenge to reduce cases of hospital-acquired infections. We immediately reported this and it has affected our performance rating, but our concern is to improve the care for patients.

“Since last year we have seen a huge improvement in reducing infection rates and this is due to the hard work and diligence of our staff. The Trust has now set up an Infection Control Taskforce which reviews every case of MRSA bacteraemia and Clostridium difficile and refines our performance. It is this taskforce that has brought in new measures to boost our infection control arsenal. These protocols include rigorous hand hygiene, improved hospital cleanliness and the strict use of antibiotics. The Trust now also routinely screens all elective surgery patients for MRSA prior to admission, and has introduced new technology to increase our speed of detection of MRSA to just two hours.”

These measures are now taking effect and the Trust is currently on target to reduce its infection rates. Mr Astley continues: “This is perhaps best exemplified on the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit where we have seen no cases of MRSA bloodstream infections since December last year, but we are far from complacent and there is still much more we intend to do.”

Elsewhere in the Annual Health Check, the assessment shows that the Trust has met all national targets for waiting times, including being one of the 68.6 per cent of hospital trusts on track to meet the 2008 target of patients going from GP referral to first treatment in 18 weeks. The Trust also met many of the standards and targets relating to patient care and patient experience.

David Astley adds: “We met the new national target for reducing health inequalities, and our care for cancer patients was also praised in the report for its increase in specialist nursing staff, its focus on patients’ needs and listening to and acting on their views.”

St George’s received a rating of ‘weak’ for its use of resources which was to be expected because the Trust, while financially in a far stronger position than last year, still has a historic financial deficit.

Mr Astley said: “Our financial deficit unfortunately means that the Trust automatically receives a score of ‘weak’ for our use of resources, which does not at all reflect our sterling efforts to improve efficiency and the good results we are now seeing. At the end of August 2007, the Trust was able to report a ?1.4 million surplus to the Board of Directors, the first time in over seven years, and by the year-end we are projecting an under-spend of ?2million which can be put back into patient care. We have now turned the corner with our finances, but we must still deal with debts accumulated in the past and remain vigilant about our current spending to ensure our good progress continues.”

“This year’s Health Check rating is perhaps disappointing for our staff as it does not reflect the hard work, dedication and expertise that I know they give to our patients. However, it is a look back into the past and I can reassure patients and their families that we are now in a much stronger position and next year I am confident that we will achieve better results. Our patients and staff deserve nothing less.”

Notes to editors

  1. For more information, please call Daniel Pople, Acting Head of Communications at St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, on 020 8725 5151 or e-mail
  2. The Annual Health Check replaces the old NHS star-rating system to assess the performance of all NHS organisations in the country. This assessment is done independently by the Healthcare Commission and includes the views and opinions of the hospital’s stakeholders, including the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee, and the Patient and Public Involvement forum. As part of the new assessment, all NHS organisations are scored on their performance in two areas: the quality of services, and the effective use of resources and graded weak, fair, good or excellent. Within quality of service there are three areas: core standards, existing national targets and new national targets. St George’s was judged to have ‘partly met’ core standards (in 2005/06 this was ‘almost met’), to have fully met national targets and to be ‘fair’ on meeting new national targets.
  3. There are seven areas of core standards. In the area ‘safety’, St George’s did not meet one standard out of nine because it was not on track to meet Government targets to reduce MRSA. This also meant it failed a target to reduce MRSA year on year, one of the ten ‘new national targets’.
  4. For more information about the Annual Health Check and to see in detail how St George’s performed, please