The independent health care regulator, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), has rated Ashford and St. Peter’s Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust as ‘Good’ following their inspection in December.

Suzanne Rankin, Ashford and St. Peter’s Chief Executive said: ‘I am absolutely delighted with this result which reflects very well on our Trust and is testament to the hard work, care and commitment shown by our staff, not just during the inspection but on a daily basis as they go about their work caring for our patients.

This was the first time our hospitals had been inspected under the new regime, which involved a much more rigorous approach than previous inspections, and comes against a backdrop of two-thirds of hospitals having been rated by the CQC as requiring improvement, so it is even more pleasing that we have been recognised as providing good quality care. Our primary concern is always to provide the best possible services for patients that we can and this report bears out some of the excellent work we are doing to improve patient care and experience.

There were some real highlights and areas of best practice which the CQC identified including the caring attitude seen throughout our hospitals, real strengths in how we care for patients nearing the end of their life, good team working and how well we use electronic patient records to improve the care we give.

We also recognise that there are some areas for improvement and we are already well underway in putting in place robust action plans to address these. For example, we are working with partners across the local healthcare system to make long term improvements to emergency care services so we can reduce waiting times in A&E and improve the discharge process for patients.

One area the report does highlight relates to safety, in particular having the right number of skilled permanent staff. Feeding back to us at their Quality Summit last week, the CQC made it very clear that they are not saying our hospitals are unsafe; rather that safety can be improved. We know we have difficulties in recruiting a number of staff groups, nurses and middle grade doctors in particular, and whilst we fill gaps with agency or bank staff, we recognise that is not as good - or as safe - as having staff who are permanent members of the team. We are already actively progressing different recruitment strategies but it's clear we need to be even more creative about how we do this. It is an absolute priority for us.

Importantly the CQC commented that quality and safety were a priority reflected from the executive level down, and specifically picked out our positive reporting culture.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all my colleagues in both our hospitals - Ashford and St. Peter’s - for their unwavering commitment in caring for patients and to say how pleased I am that this has been recognised by our key regulator. I feel incredibly proud to lead this organisation, one that the CQC described as having better than expected outcomes for patients and, overall, as a good place to come and get your care.’

As well as an overall rating the CQC provides individual ratings on 5 key elements looking at whether the Trust is safe, caring, effective, responsive and well-led. The report focuses on 8 core services (urgent and emergency services, medical care, surgery, critical care, maternity and gynaecology, services for children and young people, end of life care, outpatients and diagnostic imaging) so the rating provides a comprehensive view of the level of care and service the Trust provides.

You can read the full report on the CQC’s website.