Northumbria Healthcare’s anaesthetists rewarded for high-quality patient care – Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

ACSA is the RCoA’s peer-reviewed scheme that promotes quality improvement and the highest standards of anaesthetic service. To receive accreditation, departments are expected to demonstrate high standards in areas such as patient experience, patient safety and clinical leadership.

ACSA lead at Northumbria Healthcare, Dr Catherine Rafi, said: “We are delighted to have finally achieved our ACSA accreditation. It has been a long process especially during a pandemic.  In 2015, we opened the first dedicated Specialist Emergency Care Hospital in the country (NSECH) – so we now have that plus three district general hospitals which undertake the vast majority of our elective surgery, one dedicated day case unit (on a fourth site) and also provide anaesthesia for ECT in the local mental health trust.

“With the opening of NSECH, we had already had to put a lot of work into creating safe pathways for our patients – looking at everything from how we staffed the base sites, how we selected which patients needed to be done at NSECH, how we developed guidelines and protocols for the care of post-operative patients at the base sites where there was no out of hours on-site anaesthetic cover. We had standardised much of what we did with equipment, monitoring, recipes, training. By the time we had our visit we knew we were generally doing a good job and that was reflected in the feedback.

“We also knew we had areas that we needed improvement in – and the ACSA process gave us the impetus to do this. We now get 500-plus members of the theatres MDT through in-situ, low-fidelity training which runs every month. We have theatre alarm systems which are now fit for purpose. We have an ILS equivalent course running for our anaesthetic assistants and recovery nurses.

“The whole process was a great insight into how the department and the trust ran, and to be engaged in a meaningful, supported QI project was a great way to get to know the movers and shakers, and how to get things done.  My four domain leads were beyond brilliant and helping to move the project forwards.  And now onwards and upwards as we start the re-accreditation process.”

ACSA lead reviewer, Dr Nick Spittle, said:‘I am delighted that Northumbria Healthcare have achieved ACSA accreditation. Despite having five sites spread across a large, predominantly rural county it was clear to the visiting team that the whole anaesthetic team had come together to not only meet the ACSA standards but also to provide a unified, innovative, and patient-focused anaesthetic service. On behalf of the visiting team, I would like to thank the department for facilitating our visit and to congratulate them on this richly deserved achievement.”

Dr Fiona Donald, President of the Royal College of Anaesthetists, said: “I would like to offer my personal congratulations to the entire anaesthetic department on achieving ACSA accreditation. It is very impressive to see the commitment and approach of the whole department to sustaining their standards. They have demonstrated their ability and passion for providing the best possible care for their patients.

“Patient safety is at the heart of what we do as a Medical Royal College. The quality improvement demonstrated during the accreditation process has helped the department manage the immense tasks presented to them by Covid-19 and the resumption of normal services.

“It was impressive to see the innovative practices taking place at the hospital, and the excellent commitment from all staff during the process. As well as meeting the standards, the department demonstrated many areas of excellent advanced practice that have now been highlighted for sharing through the ACSA network.”

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