A YEAR ago Croydon University Hospital became the first trust in the country to be subject to a tough new inspection regime.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) found it required "significant improvements" - particularly to its rundown A&E.
Twelve months on it is showing encouraging signs of progress.
The A&E's Friends and Family Test (FFT) score has steadily grown from just 40 in April - among the worst in the country - to 71 in July, a score which places it as one of the top four A&E departments in London for patient experience.
The improved figures, which are based on whether people would strongly recommend the service to friends and family, are also set to be sustained for August, according to statistics due to be published in the coming weeks.
Matron Stella Davey has overseen the emergency department for nine months, having been at the hospital for two years.
She has helped to bring in a host of changes over the last nine months to try and improve the department's reputation.
"I think people come in with a preconceived idea of A&E, but also this particular A&E," she said. "It's no secret that in the past it hasn't had the best reputation.
"But some people have said they were pleasantly surprised and a lot of patients are telling us that they've seen that improvement in the last year.
"When the people of Croydon come to this department, it's the most critical, scary time – this is the bit we need to get right."
While technical improvements, like becoming the first A&E department in the country to employ paramedics on-site and creating a dementia-friendly area, have helped, Stella said the introduction of a new tea round by the health care assistants had brought a real improvement in patient satisfaction.
"In the midst of all that busyness and work, somebody walking round giving patients tea, coffee and biscuits, it's such a simple thing that makes a big difference," she said.
"We make sure that the nurses see every patient hourly, but this is an extra opportunity for someone to speak to the patients, another chance to make sure people are getting the best care."
One of the common complaints from people who have to visit A&E departments is that they spend too long waiting for treatment. The hospital is meeting the government's target that 95 per cent of patients are seen within four hours.
"It's not the best place for patients to sit for a long time. We do have to make sure people get seen but also make sure that we provide the best care. I think we have the right balance here."
One of the things she hopes will help driver further improvement is the planned £17.5 million rebuild of the A&E department, expected to be under way next year.
The current unit, built in the 1980s and expanded in the 1990s, was originally designed to treat 70,000 people a year, but at present sees 115,000.
"Patients are always happier in a place that looks brand new. One of the remarkable things is that most of the other hospitals that have made a big improvements in their FFT score have had new departments. Ours wasn't really built for the number of patients we have to treat daily here."
But playing a "crucial role" throughout the changes have been the doctors, nurses, paramedics and healthcare assistants who deal with the patients every day.
"I can't describe in words when you've got a group of caring, compassionate nurses and staff looking after patients. When they go over and above, sometimes I just feel I can't ask any more of them.
"The work didn't happen over night but we now have a very clear action plan to ensure things keep improving."
The CQC is due to reinspect the hospital, potentially later this year, to give its verdict.