The health trust running two of the main hospitals serving Powys is still inadequate - but there are signs of improvement, according to inspectors.

A new report by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) lists a string of improvements it says must be made to bring the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals NHS Trust up to standard.

The trust, which runs the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital and the Princess Royal Hospital in Telford, was judged to be inadequate in four out of the five inspection areas – being safe, responsive, effective and well-led – and was said to require improvement in being caring.

While the report saw the trust’s ratings in three of the five areas worsen since its last report in November 2018, it identified areas of outstanding practice in the outpatients department at PRH and in support for patients with dementia in the surgical wards at RSH.

Inspectors visited services including urgent and emergency care, medical care, surgery, maternity, end of life care, outpatients and services for children and young people.

The emergency departments at both hospitals were also subjected to more recent focused inspection in response to concerns raised with CQC.

CQC inspectors rated urgent and emergency services as inadequate overall at both hospitals over both inspections.

The CQC’s Chief Inspector of Hospitals, Professor Ted Baker, said: “The fact that this trust’s rating remains Inadequate reflects the fact that our inspections found a number of areas where improvements needed to happen as a matter of urgency, particularly in emergency care and medicine.

“Our most recent inspection triggered a system response to ensure the Trust received additional support from local system partners.

“We’ve seen some evidence that this support, combined with the fact that the Trust has a new leadership team in place who are aware of the urgent work that needs to be done, is resulting in some very early signs of improvement.”

SaTH’s new chief executive Louise Barnett said the trust was already “well-sighted” on the issues raised in the report.

She said: “We welcome the feedback from the CQC and we will build on this to make the sustainable changes needed to ensure the consistent delivery of safe, high-quality care that the people of Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin and mid Wales deserve.

“The Trust faces significant challenges, however since joining SaTH I have met some really inspiring people and have seen first-hand examples of excellent work from individuals and teams who are passionate about what they do and the care they provide.

“It is going to take time but we are absolutely determined to get this right for our patients, their families and our staff.”

Ms Barnett said it was positive that improvements in maternity services had been recognised. She said: “A huge amount of work has been done to get to where we are now, however we recognise there is more to do and we are working hard to address the outstanding areas of concern to ensure all of our women and their families receive the very best possible care. These learnings will help us to drive further changes across the organisation.”

Prof Baker said: “While the rating for maternity services remained at requires improvement, the inspection team noted ongoing progress, and also found improvements to outpatients’ services, with both departments demonstrating several areas of good practice.”

Prof Baker added that it was “crucial” that improvement efforts were not lost as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

He said: “These urgent improvements will provide the very safeguards which will help to ensure the trust is able to keep people safe during this period of extraordinary pressure.”

Ms Barnett said: “Our staff work extremely hard in the face of increasing demand and we are supporting them through strengthened leadership, training and development, and further recruitment so that together we can provide the high standards of care to which we aspire every day.

“Clearly we need to improve. However, it is important that we do not lose sight of the things we do well.

“We are currently dealing with a global pandemic and a national emergency. The challenges being faced across the country, and here in Shropshire, are significant. None of us have ever faced anything like this.

“Teams right across our trust are working incredibly hard to ensure we are prepared and that our patients are well cared for.

“This is only possible because of the incredible commitment and professionalism being shown by our 6,000 members of staff and our volunteers who support them every day.

“I would like to personally recognise and thank our staff for their amazing commitment and the way in which they are pulling together, and I am sure by continuing to work together we can make the improvements required for all our patients and families.”