AN independent watchdog has praised York Health Services NHS Trust for its work in managing risks to patients.

In the first report on the York trust, the Commission for Health Improvement (CHI) compliments the trust for "its good overall understanding of managing risk, or potential risks, associated with clinical practice".

CHI inspectors also praised the trust for the introduction of patient services assistants to help patients and their carers.

But CHI also highlighted "extensive" problems with delayed patient discharges which were "detrimental" to the patient, their families and staff.

These difficulties were made worse by funding problems and the lack of capacity in local care homes. The trust, social services, primary care trust and health authority needed to continue to make this area a priority, the CHI report said.

Nurse numbers at the trust are among the lowest in England and the trust continues to work with other organisations to address this problem, the report adds.

Inspectors also said response times to complaints needed to be improved.

A spokesman for the trust said York Health Services was rated one of the best in the country for clinical risk management.

Despite shortages of nurses the trust was praised for the innovative way it uses health care assistants without reducing quality, the spokesman said.

"Next year there are plans to inject an extra £440,000 into nursing and midwifery staffing," the spokesman said.

The trust's chief executive, Simon Pleydell, said: "The report is overwhelmingly positive and constructive in supporting the trust's commitment to provide a first class service for patients. The many areas of good practice referred to in the report are the result of the excellent work carried out by all our staff."

Mr Pleydell said an action plan had been agreed to ensure all of the recommendations in the report were carried out