AN NHS watchdog says Basildon Hospital has improved enough for it to relax some restrictions imposed after the damning Keogh Review.

The trust which runs the hospital is the first of those criticised under Keogh to get a qualified thumbs-up from the NHS regulator, Monitor.

The watchdog says the hospital’s children’s ward – previously a cause for grave concern – has improved enough for sanctions have been removed from its licence.

Monitor placed conditions on the trust’s licence to provide healthcare at the end of 2012 after finding serious failings in paediatric care.

In the worse instance, a tenyear- old girl died after being given out-of-date medicine.

If improvements had not been made the trust could have lost its licence to operate as a foundation trust.

However, hospital managers bosses are now convinced things are on the up, after the first conditions were lifted this week, because paediatric care has significantly improved. As a result, the paediatric unit will not face such rigorous scrutiny next time Monitor inspects the hospital.

To make the improvements, the trust has recruited extra staff, has new managers and is better organised.

Managers were so confident things had improved they wrote to Monitor earlier this month, asking for the conditions to be lifted.

Trust chairman Ian Luder said it was so unusual for a trust to approach Monitor in this way, the body had had to look up how it could remove a condition early.

He added: “It’s a major achievement. We are the first to have one lifted.

“We hope within the course of the next few months, we will be asking for other conditions to be removed. We are on track for that to happen.”

As part of the improvement programme, the hospital was partnered with the successful Royal Free Hospital, in London, last year so local managers could learn form the London hospital’s good practice.

Basildon was one of 14 hospitals nationwide which were deemed to be failing under the Government-ordered Keogh Review. Nine trusts, including Basildon, were put into special measures and had conditions put on their licences.

Among the improvements in paediatric care have been:

  • The hiring of three extra paediatric consultants
  • Setting up a dedicated children’s assessment area in the A&E department
  • A thorough overall of the way children’s wards are managed
  • Seven-days-a-week consultant cover

Conditions are still in place on the hospital’s licence operations while improvements are made to mortality rates, emergency care, governance and patient turnaround.

However, trust chief executive Clare Panniker said: “We are not worried about these any more, “We think we have made really good progress in every area.

“The conditions were quite prescriptive about what we needed to do to improve, but we have taken all the actions.

“Paediatrics is a good story about an area which was struggling.

“They have put a lot of attention to listening to children and their families.”