CQC rates The Walton Centre as Outstanding

Date: 21 October 2016

The Walton Centre - Liverpool’s specialist brain and spine hospital - is the first specialist NHS trust in the country to be rated as outstanding without any areas deemed as needing improvement.

The Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust received the top rating following an inspection by the Care Quality Commission earlier this year.

In examining trusts, inspectors ask five key questions: is the trust safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led?

The Walton Centre is one of only nine trusts in England to receive an overall ‘outstanding’ mark and is only the second specialist NHS trust nationally to be given this rating. Both trusts are in Liverpool. Liverpool’s Heart and Chest Hospital also received an outstanding rating from the independent health and social care regulator.

The result follows on from a number of significant achievements. The hospital, dedicated to providing neurosurgery and care for patients with neurology, pain and spinal conditions, is already in the Nursing Times’ top 10 for nursing care.

It also ranks as one of the top 10 places to work in the NHS by the Health Service Journal and was named as an exemplar in Health and Wellbeing for the rest of the NHS and an NHS vanguard site after it put forward a bid to pioneer a new way of working that will benefit patients.

The Walton Centre, which provides a neuroscience service for the whole of the region, also has Investors in People Gold status – a quality kite mark which reflects the Trust’s commitment to its workforce and their development.

Inspectors who visited the specialist brain and spine hospital earlier this year saw several areas of outstanding practice, including its work in research, radiology, critical care and rehabilitation.

Chief Executive of The Walton Centre Chris Harrop said: “This is a fantastic result which tells patients that when they come to The Walton Centre they are getting the very best possible care.

“It’s simply astounding what we have achieved together recently. We are in the Nursing Times’ top 10 for nursing care. We also hold Investors in People Gold because of our commitment to our staff. We are leading the way in several areas of care including trauma, rehabilitation and the management of complex pain.

“I am overwhelmed by the commitment our staff give so willingly to help patients and pioneer new ways of working so that patients can access the best care, the best treatments and have the best possible outcome. They deserve this recognition.

“We work as a team at The Walton Centre and this outstanding rating is the result of a joint effort. Everybody has played their part; staff, volunteers, governors, partners, commissioners, our wider Walton Centre family in our satellite clinics and the patients themselves who guide us in what we do.

“This is great news for The Walton Centre and also for Cheshire and Merseyside as a whole and our patients in north Wales. This result not only reflects the care we deliver but it is broader than that, it reflects the way we provide care, commission services and work with other trusts. An outstanding rating is acknowledgment that we are providing the best care to patients in Liverpool and beyond but also that we are part of a successful wider health system that is working together for patients.”

Consultant Neurosurgeon at the hospital Paul May, who last month became the President of the Society of British Neuro Surgeons, added: “The Walton Centre is an outstanding trust. This Trust has a history of delivering the best care and this is further evidence that we are getting it right for patients. We are not only known locally for being a centre of excellence but have a national and international reputation for being the best at what we do. And this, as always, is driven by our desire to deliver the best outcomes for patients.”

The CQC published its rating on Friday 21 October 2016, following announced and unannounced inspection visits to the Trust in April 2016.

A team of more than 30 CQC inspectors, made up of doctors, nurses and other health care professionals, visited to inspect the services provided by the Trust.

The CQC also sought the views of patients who had used the services, external partners and examined data to develop a detailed understanding of the culture, leadership and the quality of care delivered.

The report highlighted several areas of outstanding practice:

Rehabilitation: The Walton Centre was praised for the way it involves families and patients in their care. Inspectors highlighted a garden area at the hospital which families use and garden with patients going through rehabilitation. The Walton Centre’s networked approach to rehabilitation was also said to be an example of outstanding practice. The hub and spoke model that sees the specialist hospital work with district general hospitals and community units allows the patient to be cared for in the most appropriate setting and speeds up the rehabilitation process.

Research:The Trust has received a Certificate of Recognition Excellence for the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) for work in promoting the benefits of clinical research, and encouraging recruitment of patients into clinical trials. In 2014 to 2015, the trust increased their proportion of NIHR studies from 39 to 56 studies compared to the previous year which was more than any other trust in the region.

Diagnostics: The Walton Centre has a ‘claustrophobia clinic’ for patients who need an MRI scan but cannot go through a conventional scanner because of their fear of confined spaces. Patients use a scanner with a wider bore hole and are given one-to-one support from the radiographer who talks them through the process.

Critical Care: The Critical Care team was highlighted for using an electronic system which identifies the need for appropriate risk assessments to be undertaken for patients. This ensures that patients are assessed in a timely manner by providing a visual aid to staff via a television screen in the main area of the unit.

Walton Willow: The Trust was highlighted for introducing a memorial tree called The Walton Willow. A Gift of Life Commemoration event takes place annually so families can remember patients who donated organs by placing a leaf, bearing their name, on the tree.

Home from Home: The Walton Centre has developed a ‘Home from Home’ facility so families who live far afield can be close to loved ones. The accommodation, which inspectors said was of a high standard, is paid for and supported by The Walton Centre Charity.

Multi-disciplinary working: Inspectors commented that there was a well-established multidisciplinary team approach that was seen as integral to the critical care service. There were regular meetings through the day with staff from other departments, internally and externally.

Theatres: An interactive theatre live tracking system (TIMS) was another area of outstanding practice, highlighted by inspectors as an innovative system which allowed live tracking of patients through their theatre journey and consultants to book their own patients on to theatre lists while in clinic.

Vanguard site: The trust was highlighted for being an NHS vanguard. The Walton Centre is pioneering new ways of caring for patients that will lead to more people with long term neurology conditions being able to access a wider remit of services outside of the main hospital site, closer to home.

Key findings from the CQC report

There were many examples where staff had ‘gone the extra mile’ to support patient’s individual needs showing determination and creativity to overcome difficulties when delivering care.

Patients received compassionate care and their privacy and dignity were maintained.

Patients told us that staff were caring, kind and respected their wishes. We saw staff interactions with people that were person-centred.

All areas we inspected were visibly clean and well organised. The trust was rated as the overall top acute trust in England in relation to the patient-led assessments of the care environment (PLACE) in 2015. The trust scored 99% for cleanliness and 98% for condition, appearance and maintenance.

Medical treatment was delivered by skilled and committed medical staff.

NHS Friends and Family Test (NHS FFT) results showed that the trust consistently scored above 95%, which was better than the England average, indicating that most patients were positive about recommending the trust to their friends and family.

There was a positive culture throughout the trust. Staff were proud to work for the trust and proud of the services they provided.


The full report is available on the CQC's website: www.cqc.org.uk

Summary of The Walton Centre's achievements

Health Service Journal (HSJ) Best Places to Work 2015: The Walton Centre was among the top 10 NHS employers

  • Investors in People (IIP) Gold Award for People Management
  • Investors in People (IIP) Health and Wellbeing Award
  • The Nursing Times 2015: top ten hospitals nationally for overall nursing care
  • HSJ Awards 2015: winner Specialised Service Redesign (Cheshire and Merseyside Specialist Rehabilitation Network)
  • HSJ Awards 2015: shortlisted Provider Trust of the Year
  • Transitional Care Empowerment Programme Award 2015: Epilepsy Team
  • Navajo Merseyside & Cheshire LGBT Charter Mark
  • Encephalitis Society Exceptional Service Award 2015: Chavasse Ward
  • Havelock Award 2014: Finance department
  • Building Better Healthcare Award 2015 ‘Best Sustainable Development’: Sid Watkins Building
  • Healthcare Estates Award 2015 ‘Project of the Year’: Sid Watkins Building
  • NHS Learning from Mistakes League Table (for openness and transparency): Outstanding
  • Summary:

    The first specialist NHS trust in the country to be rated as outstanding without any areas deemed as needing improvement.