Deadline to improve patient care quality in Eastbourne

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BOSSES at Eastbourne District General Hospital have been given two months to improve the care and welfare of patients or potentially face prosecution.

Health regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC) announced this week it had given East Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust a formal warning notice to make ‘urgent improvement to patient care’ because it had ‘failed to protect the safety and welfare of people who use its service’.

The CQC said there had been some improvements in other areas but has given the trust until September 2 to address the latest issues raised by inspectors.

Trust chief executive Darren Grayson said he apologised to patients ‘whose care has fallen below acceptable standards’.

In February, the CQC carried out a routine review of all five hospitals run by the Trust, including the DGH.

Inspectors identified insufficient numbers of staff to support proper patient care in some areas and that care plans and risk assessments were not completed or were inaccurate.

A follow-up visit in April found the Trust was still failing to meet essential standards of quality and safety at the DGH and the Conquest Hospital in Hastings.

Although some improvement was identified, the CQC said patient records were inaccurate or incomplete and patients had not been given appropriate risk assessments, leading to a risk of unsafe care.

On a separate unannounced visit in May, inspectors also found patients did not always receive the help they needed to eat and drink.

Roxy Boyce, CQC regional director, said, “Despite the fact we have raised these concerns with the trust previously, they have not addressed them satisfactorily.

“There have been some improvements – but not enough. Failure to properly complete risk assessments and patient records means people are not protected against the risk of unsafe care, while help with eating and drinking for those who need it is one of the basic fundamentals of care.

“This warning notice sends a clear and public message that this Trust now needs to address these shortcomings as a matter of urgency or face very serious consequences.”

The CQC said if its September deadline was not met, it could prosecute the Trust or restrict services it offers.

Mr Grayson said the Trust had made ‘substantial progress’ in improving patient care since the CQC’s visit earlier in the year, which resulted in two warning notices being lifted.

Among improvements were greater involvement of patients in decisions about their care and treatment, ensuring maternity and A&E departments were appropriately staffed, implementation of a records system which allow the individual needs of patients to be addressed and ensuring patients who need it get help with eating and drinking.

Mr Grayson said, “I apologise to patients whose care has fallen below acceptable standards. We must ensure we get it right for all patients all of the time and ensure the quality of record keeping and documentation consistently reflects the high quality care that I know we provide to the majority of patients.

“We have been able to make significant progress in such a short period of time because the new management team at the trust had already identified, and were acting on, the majority of the issues raised. However, many of the issues have built up over time and will require change over the long term in order to fully address them.”

Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd was pleased the Trust had made some improvements but added, “I am concerned the commission still considers the Trust fails on the ‘care and welfare of people who use services’. It is vital everything is done by senior management to meet this requirement as soon as possible.

“All expect quality patient care at all times and I will continue to press the chief executive and the board to meet these high standards.”