Kettering General Hospital has been removed from special measures for the first time in more than two years.
The Rothwell Road hospital has been under the watchful eye of NHS Improvement since a damning report was published in April 2017.
A further inspection last year saw the trust moved from inadequate to a grade of requires improvement, although they remained in special measures.
But in a report published today (Wednesday) after another check the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said KGH had finally done enough to meet acceptable standards.
Kettering General Hospital’s chief executive, Simon Weldon, said: “I am really pleased that the CQC and NHS England and NHS Improvement have recognised the progress that we’ve made.
“This is reflected in the ratings we received in the CQC report and by the decision by NHS England and NHS Improvement to bring us out of special measures.
“I would like to thank all staff for their commitment over the past year – this achievement really belongs to them. Their dedication and strong desire to provide good care for our patients shines through in this report.
“I also acknowledge the further challenges ahead. I know there is more hard work that we need to do to continue our journey and the CQC has clearly set out the issues that we need to address.”
The inspection, which took place over several days in January, February and March, focused on urgent and emergency care, medical care, maternity, outpatients and diagnostic imaging. It also took into account checks on being well-led and the trust’s use of resources.
The findings left the hospital, which treated 87,497 patients in 2017/18, with ratings of ‘good’ for caring services and being well-led. Ratings for the trust being safe, effective and responsive were graded as requires improvement, giving an overall unchanged rating of requires improvement but enough to exit special measures.
It’s a far cry from the findings published in 2017 which saw two areas graded as inadequate, the worst rating possible.
Kettering General Hospital’s medical director, Prof Andrew Chilton, said: “It is fantastic to see all of the hard work done by our staff over the last year to improve care and to improve the way we work being recognised in this report.
“In areas where we have been especially challenged – such as emergency care and diagnostics – we have made great progress.
“I want to thank all of our teams for their efforts as we continue on our journey of improvement.”
Kettering General Hospital’s chairman, Alan Burns, said they are striving to be regarded as outstanding.
He said: “Today’s report shows clear progress on our journey of improvement.
“We are ambitious and plan to invest in and further develop our services, processes, and the skills of our teams, to the point where we are regarded as an outstanding organisation.”
The CQC praised the trust - which ended the 2017/18 financial year with a deficit of £34.7m - for reducing reporting backlogs in diagnostic imaging and achieving very high standards for encouraging breast feeding.
The hospital was commended for outstanding practice in outpatients for delivering chemotherapy.
And - reflecting comments so often heard when speaking to many who have visited the hospital - staff were praised for their care and compassion.
However, inspectors did find areas for improvement.
Some patients that attended A&E without the need for an ambulance did not always receive assessments and observations in a timely way.
Inspectors said the paediatric area in the urgent care department was simply too small for the population they serve with some nursing risk assessments not completed.
And some equipment was not always checked to see if it was safe to use.
Kettering General Hospital’s director of nursing and quality, Leanne Hackshall, said: “The report does list areas where we can improve our care and our processes and we will be working down that list and addressing all of the matters raised.
“Themes have included the need to continue to focus on staff training, being thorough in delivering the basics of care such as patient assessments, documentation and privacy and dignity, and also improving our facilities.
“We will be working to address all of these issues and I think both our digital transformation and forthcoming estates strategy will help with this, along with the usual actions we would take to address specific matters.”
The report added that KGH was not meeting legal requirements for four regulations and must tell the CQC what they are going to do to meet them in the future.
Frances Shattock, director of strategic transformation for NHS England and NHS Improvement Midlands, said: “We were pleased to see all areas inspected by the CQC have been rated as either good or requires improvement.
“With the overall rating remaining as requires improvement, we will continue to work with everyone at the trust to sustain and deliver the necessary further improvements in its services for patients.”
Prof Ted Baker, the CQC’s chief inspector of hospitals, said: “Our return to Kettering General Hospital showed further improvement had taken place and previous improvements had been maintained.
“This is why I am recommending to NHS Improvement that the trust now comes out of special measures.”