East Lancashire Hospitals 'can leave special measures'
East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust has made "sufficient progress" to be released from special measures, the chief inspector of hospitals has said.
The trust was put in special measures in July 2013 following the Keogh Review into higher-than-expected death rates.
Professor Sir Mike Richards said hospitals in Blackburn and Burnley would still need "ongoing support".
Interim chief executive Jim Birrell said it meant the trust could "draw a line in the sand and move forward".
Prof Sir Mike's statement followed Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspections at the Royal Blackburn Hospital and Burnley General Hospital in April, which found "significant improvements in a number of areas".
Following inspections, both hospitals were rated as good for caring for patients and providing effective care.
However, both required improvements in providing safe care, being responsive to patients' needs and being well-led.
Inspectors reported that patients were "generally positive" about their experiences and that staff were "kind and caring" and had noticed "the culture of the trust was changing".
However, the CQC also found need for improvement in 13 areas, including the use of risk registers, the management of complaints, the checking of theatre equipment and the flow of patients from arrival to discharge.
Mr Birrell said he was delighted with the decision, as staff had been "devastated by the findings and criticisms of Keogh".
"We can now draw a line in the sand and look to move forward with the quality and clinical strategies that will enable us to provide the best possible safe, personal and effective care for our patients."
A spokeswoman added that the trust had "already completed a number of actions" highlighted in the April inspection.
East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust was one of 14 trusts investigated following the public inquiry into the Stafford Hospital scandal, which said the public had been betrayed by a system which put "corporate self-interest" ahead of patients.
The trusts were identified as they had the highest death rates in 2010-11 and 2011-12.
The probe was led by NHS England's medical director Prof Sir Bruce Keogh and focused on whether the figures indicated sustained failings in the quality of care and treatment at the trusts.