CQC logoTwo NHS mental health trusts have become the first to be awarded an ‘outstanding’ rating by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) since the care regulator changed its inspection regime.

Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (NTW) and East London NHS Foundation Trust (ELFT) have achieved the rating, which indicates the service is performing exceptionally well. In both cases, the trusts were praised for the quality of their leadership, which helps clinical teams to focus on delivering care to patients.

NTW provides services from more than 60 sites across Northumberland, Newcastle, North Tyneside, Gateshead, South Tyneside and Sunderland, as well as providing a number of regional and national specialist services. The inspectors visited the full range of its services, including mental health, learning disabilities and neurorehabilitation, both inpatient and community. 

ELFT provides services in London, Luton and Bedfordshire. The CQC inspection team carried out an extensive two-week assessment in June, visiting 86 services and talking to more than 300 patients, 52 carers and some 700 staff. In the first week, they examined Newham community services and mental health services in all three east London boroughs before moving onto Bedfordshire and Luton in the second week.

Dr Paul Lelliott, deputy chief inspector of hospitals (lead for mental health) at the CQC, said: “It is great news that we have been able to rate the first two mental health trusts in England as providing ’outstanding’ care for the communities and patients that they serve – a combined population of well over two million.

“The bar for ‘outstanding’ is a high one and we were very impressed with what we witnessed during our inspections of both of these trusts. The common factor that links these two trusts is the quality and the style of leadership. Both have an open culture in which the senior leadership team really value their frontline staff. The leaders of these trusts see their role as being to enable the clinical teams to deliver the best possible care to patients. This involves devolving and delegating responsibility, encouraging innovation and supporting continuous improvement.

“We hope that other providers will learn from these two outstanding trusts and that Northumberland, Tyne and Wear and East London will serve as models for what ‘outstanding’ mental healthcare looks like.”

NTW chief executive John Lawlor said: “We’re delighted that the contribution our staff make to the lives of those we serve has been recognised by this ‘outstanding’ inspection report. We are very proud of our staff and the professional and dedicated way in which they support service users; working with them, family members and carers to shape services.

“We know that we don’t always get things right. We are not complacent; we listen when we get things wrong and work to ensure that improvements are made. This is reflected in our CQC report.

“Our aim as an organisation is to improve the wellbeing of everyone we serve through delivering services that match the best in the world. This report shows we are making real progress.”

NTW chairman, Hugh Morgan Williams, added: “The CQC inspection of our services, carried out in June, was truly comprehensive; involving staff, service users and carers. This rating is a tribute to all of our wonderful, dedicated, staff and I am very proud to be chairman of an organisation which places patient care at the centre of everything we do. We must now look to the future, without complacency, and continue to work with service users, carers and our partners to strive to deliver world class care.”

ELFT chief executive, Dr Navina Evans, said: “I am so proud of our staff and I am absolutely delighted that their passion and talents have been recognised by this fantastic achievement. We have worked very hard to ensure we provide a high standard of care and we continuously review what we do to learn to do it better. We have a long way to go and this will spur us on.

I want to thank every single member of staff who has played a part in helping the Trust to become one of the best mental health and community trusts in the country.”

Trust Chairman Marie Gabriel added: "This is a tremendous achievement and recognition of the phenomenal work that our staff undertake each and every day. This ‘outstanding’ rating is important because it reassures our local communities that we strive to ensure they are in good hands if they need treatment, care and support from our services. I would like to pay tribute the leadership of Dr Robert Dolan, our previous chief executive. His legacy is a tremendous foundation for us to build on to take the Trust to the next level.

“I would also like to highlight the important contribution of our patients, governors, commissioners and of our delivery partners within local authorities, the NHS and the voluntary sector. Supporting vulnerable people requires teamwork and we at ELFT would not be able to provide the level of care that we do without others.”