The trust which runs the Conquest Hospital and Eastbourne’s DGH has been praised for making ‘significant improvements’ - but remains in special measures following the latest inspection from the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
The CQC carried out an inspection of the East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust in October 2016.
The CQC report, published on Thursday (January 26) has rated the trust as ‘requires improvement’ overall - up from the ‘inadequate’ rating received in September 2015.
However the CQC has recommended the trust should remain in special measures for now. While the trust is rated ‘requires improvement’ overall, it is rated as ‘good’ for being caring and ‘requires improvement’ for being safe, effective, responsive and well-led.
Inspectors also found that a number of improvements had been made at both the DGH and Conquest.
Both had previously been rated ‘inadequate’ but, following the most recent inspection, both are now rated ‘requires improvement’.
The Conquest was rated ‘good’ for medical care, surgery and critical care, while the DGH was given a ‘good’ rating for surgery, critical care and outpatient and diagnostic imaging.
Since the previous inspection in March 2015, the CQC has found the trust had made significant improvements in its services.
A new visible leadership team has been introduced at the trust and previous concerns of bullying and lack of staff engagement appeared to have been tackled. Staff feel positive, well engaged and valued, said the CQC.
Maternity services were rated ‘good’ for being safe, caring and well-led, having previously been rated as ‘inadequate’ overall and surgery at both hospitals had been upgraded to ‘good’ overall from ‘inadequate’.
All services were rated ‘good’ for ‘caring’ and there was also praise for the improved infection control and cleanliness.
But both of the trust’s A&E departments were rated as ‘requires improvement’, with poor staffing levels, poor record keeping and deteriorating performance against access standards.
The report acknowledged the senior team was relatively new and that some improvements had only recently been introduced and were not fully embedded for inspectors to take a measured view of the improvements.
Professor Sir Mike Richards, the chief inspector of hospitals, said: “In the past year there have been significant changes to the senior management group at East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust. The team has worked well together and, with the support from special measures and external partners, has addressed a number of the issues previously identified in our inspection last year including surgery improving from inadequate to good.
“However, the improvements identified are fairly recent and not fully embedded. Continuation of this improvement must be seen as a priority for the trust.
“While the trust continues to make substantial progress, I remain concerned that performance within the emergency department is not as robust as it could be, and this is having an impact on the quality and timeliness of services for patients.
“While I appreciate the issues surrounding staffing, there are still delays in patients being transferred from ambulances to the emergency department.
“I feel optimistic that the trust will continue to improve, but it will require continued support for the foreseeable future.
“Others with a responsibility for health services in the area need to help address problems the trust cannot deal with on its own.
“That is why I am recommending the trust remains in special measures.
“Compared to the CQC’s last inspection in March 2015 there was positivity about the changes in culture within in the organisation.
“The concerted efforts by the leadership group have helped develop some significant improvements particularly in staff engagement.”
Dr Adrian Bull, chief executive of the East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “I am very pleased that the CQC has recognised the progress that has been made since our last inspection.
“It is testament to the hard work and commitment of people across the organisation who continually seek to provide good care for our patients.
“We have a talented and professional workforce and the rating of ‘good’ for being caring is recognition of this.
“However, we still have a lot of work to do to ensure we provide consistently high standards of care across all of our services.
“We must continue to seek out every opportunity to make improvements to achieve our ambition of becoming outstanding.
“Our aim is to be an organisation which provides excellent healthcare for the people of East Sussex, and one in which people are happy and proud to work.
“In the coming year we will continue to focus on our key priorities - which include recruiting and retaining more permanent clinical staff; improving the management and flow of patients through our hospitals; reducing waiting times for investigations and planned surgery; further developing our community services; and achieving financial sustainability.
“We are glad to be collaborating closely with the County Council and our host CCGs in the East Sussex Better Together programme.
“By working together we will continue to develop health and care services that best meet the needs of the people of East Sussex and are fully coordinated around individual patients.”
The full CQC report can be viewed at http://www.cqc.org.uk/provider/RXC