Care watchdogs say Conquest Hospital ‘must do better’

Conquest Hospital, Hastings. 2/2/12
Conquest Hospital, Hastings. 2/2/12

MANAGEMENT at the Conquest Hospital have been told in no uncertain terms that conditions there need to drastically improve.

This week inspectors from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said the hospital trust faced ‘serious consquences’ unless it shapes up after publishing their latest report.

Last May the watchdog slammed East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs the hospital on The Ridge, during a visit and highlighted a catalogue of failures, highlighting major concerns over patient safety, privacy and staffing levels.

Since then there have been several CQC visits, the latest being in September, on which this week’s report is based.

While a raft of improvements have been made, inspectors said they were still far from happy. Among the concerns highlighted were issues regarding general care and welfare of patients, staffing levels and the trust’s ability to effectively monitor the quality of the services it is providing.

The CQC said there were ‘marked inconsistencies’ in the quality and accuracy of risk assessments and care planning across the wards.

One patient’s request for help on MacDonald Ward went unanswered for more than 10 minutes.

Another patient, who had communication difficulties, was seen eating cauliflower cheese when the care notes said the patient needed help with eating and receive a pureed diet. The CQC also said recruitment of middle grade doctors and consultants remained a problem, with the trust relying too much on locum doctors.

The trust was also criticised over its ability to effectively monitor the quality of the services it provides.

NHS bosses now have until March 31 to get things up to scratch. If the trust fails, the CQC has threatened severe repercussions.

Ian Biggs, deputy director of the CQC in the south, said: “The trust needs to take this warning very seriously indeed.

“The essential standards exist to protect vulnerable people, who cannot always speak up for themselves, from being put at risk.

“NHS trusts have a duty to make sure that the care they deliver meets the Government’s essential standards in order to deliver safe and good quality care to patients.

“The CQC has a range of legal powers it can use to protect the people who use services run by the trust if it finds required progress has not been made.

“People using services at the trust should continue to do so. We would take immediate action to protect people if we felt that there was a serious immediate risk of harm.

“Nevertheless, this warning sends a clear message that East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust needs to address these issues or face serious consequences.”

The trust’s chief executive Darren Grayson said that he was pleased the report did draw attention to some improvements and added further progress had already been made since the follow-up visit.

He said: “We are committed to improving the quality of care and outcomes for patients and aim to get every aspect of care right for all our patients all of the time.

“These reports demonstrate the improvements we had made five months ago. We have made considerable progress since then and we continue to make improvements across the trust to address all the areas the CQC has highlighted for improvement.”

But Mr Grayson warned that major improvements across the trust, which also runs Eastbourne DGH, would ‘take time to deliver,’ and require a ‘large scale cultural and service change’.

Hastings MP Amber Rudd said: “The CQC report last year was very disappointing and worrying. Residents are entitled to a high degree of quality and care from our local NHS, and, most of the reports I receive from constituents confirm that they have received this, but the weaknesses revealed by the CQC are very concerning.

“I am encouraged at the swift and focused response of the trust to some of the highlighted areas of weakness. However, I am concerned by the number of serious failings that the CQC has highlighted after its recent visit. The trust needs to take robust action address these failings immediately. I will be meeting with the chief executive and trust chairman straight away to discuss this and ongoing plans for improvement.”

The trust is currently battling to clear £6 million worth of debt and trying to earmark £30 million in savings.