Leaders at a health body that covers Northumberland have reacted with delight to receiving the top grade from the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
And they have paid tribute to the thousands of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust staff for their efforts in helping it to get the outstanding rating.
Inspectors judged its four main hospitals – which include Wansbeck General Hospital and the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital near Cramlington – to be outstanding.
The strong integration of all services between the hospital and community, particularly in end of life care services, was highly praised.
Inspirational leadership, strong clinical engagement and staff delivering compassionate care that was polite and respectful was also highlighted in the CQC report.
David Evans, chief executive of the trust, said: “We are immensely proud to receive such positive recognition.
“On behalf of the trust board, I would like to thank each and every member of staff for the commitment they show, every single day, to provide high quality patient care.
“Our teams look after people when they are often at their most vulnerable, whether that is coming into our hospitals, coping with an on-going health problem or learning to live with an unexpected illness.
“The care and compassion shown by our workforce touches people’s lives on a daily basis and every employee of Northumbria Healthcare should be rightfully proud of the great value they bring to our local communities and the people we serve.
“As always, we must now look to the future so that we can continue to build on our successes to date and push the boundaries of excellence in everything we do.
“We will continue to listen to our staff, patients and the public so that we can improve the quality of care we provide even further.”
The health trust provides services for about half a million people in Northumberland and North Tyneside.
In November 2015, it welcomed a team of inspectors from the CQC who spent a week inspecting services. Further ‘unannounced’ visits followed.
Community services, including care provided from community hospitals, were also rated outstanding overall and the trust was commended for its innovative and pioneering approach to end of life care.
In relation to maternity, the trust has been asked to ensure its clinical strategy meets recommendations from NHS England’s national maternity review, as well as making improvements to the storage of emergency drugs and improving the entrance and exit to the new birthing centre.
The Chief Inspector of Hospitals, Prof Sir Mike Richards, said: “We found Northumbria to be one of the best hospital trusts in England.
“It is very rare indeed that the community children and young people’s service should be rated outstanding in all of its domains. I congratulate the trust for this achievement.
“The most remarkable finding to me was the consistency of the outstanding ratings across all four hospital locations and across community services.
“To achieve this across so many sites is truly remarkable and is a first. It demonstrates that it is possible to achieve excellence even when services are widely dispersed geographically.
“The opening of the specialist emergency care hospital last year has enabled the trust to introduce a new model of care, with improved pathways for patients in emergency, maternity and medical and surgical care. This had meant different ways of working for some staff.
“The strong leadership and clinical engagement has ensured that this change had been managed extremely well and effectively.”