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East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust rated inadequate

England's Chief Inspector of Hospitals has recommended that East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust should be placed into special measures.

The recommendation was made in a second report on the quality of care provided by the trust.

The Care Quality Commission had previously inspected the trust in September 2014, when Conquest Hospital at Hastings and Eastbourne District General Hospital were both rated Inadequate.

A team of CQC inspectors followed this up with a further unannounced inspection in March 2015 to check on progress which had been to address the main areas of concern, focussing on maternity services, outpatient and diagnostic imaging services, surgery and accident and emergency care.

In a report which is published today, the trust has again been rated as Inadequate overall.

Although all services were rated Good for caring, the trust has also been rated Inadequate in safety and leadership.

East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust has been placed into special measures Credit: ITV Meridian

We are very disappointed about the shortfalls the CQC has identified. We are sorry that we have let down people who use our services, our staff and colleagues and acknowledge we have not delivered the standards the people in East Sussex rightly expect from us.

However, we welcome the additional support from the wider NHS that the CQC has recommended and are determined to make a new start. We are working hard to meet our ambitions to improve at pace and deliver excellence for the people we serve.

We have already made improvements in some of the areas highlighted by the CQC

– Richard Sunley, Acting Chief Executive at East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust

It is clear from our most recent inspection that East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust has been struggling to deal with deep-rooted problems which have been having an impact on its core services.

I am disappointed that the trust has made too little progress in dealing with the significant issues in the underlying culture which have been all too apparent for some time.

While I recognise that the trust has been working over the last few months to make further improvements, I am chiefly concerned at the rate of progress since our inspection last year. The continuing disconnect between the trust board and staff is worrying, and I am sure, lies behind the continuing poor performance.

I know there has been some improvement; I am aware of the renewed determination by the new senior managers to take more robust and focussed action.

Despite these assurances, I do not feel the improvements we have seen are nearly enough to put to rest the concerns of the people who use the services or local stakeholders. Therefore I am recommending to the NHS Trust Development Authority that this trust should be placed into special measures, which will enable it to get the support it needs.

We will continue to monitor the trust’s performance closely. I am hopeful that when we return in the future to check again; we will find evidence of significant changes for the benefit of all who those depend on its services.

– The Chief Inspector of Hospitals, Professor Sir Mike Richards
East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust has been placed into special measures Credit: ITV Meridian

During the inspection in March, CQC found that there was a widespread disconnect between the trust board and staff. Although the board recognised that staff engagement was an area of concern, there was no effective strategy to improve.

Inspectors found that staff remained afraid to speak up or share concerns in case of repercussions.

Low staffing levels were affecting the trust’s ability to deliver efficient care.

Patients were not always being seen for follow up appointments within the timescales requested by their clinician and at times clinics were cancelled at short notice. Patients were not always being informed until they arrived for their appointment.

The Care Quality Commission presented its findings to a local quality summit on Friday. The summit was held to develop a plan of action and recommendations based on the inspection team's findings.

This report by Tom Savvides includes interviews with Dr David Hughes from East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust and interviews with patients Dudley Davies and Patricia Cockell.

Stacey Poole talks to Professor Edward Baker from the Care Quality Commission.