THE Conquest Hospital has until September 2 to make drastic improvements or the trust which runs it could be prosecuted for letting down patients.
East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust was told back in May that its current level of care was not good enough in a damming report by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
Inspectors unearthed a catalogue of failures, including patients being left to go without food and drink, staff lacking appropriate training and a pensioner being left on a trolley for seven hours despite nursing a painful broken hip.
The trust was given three warning notices and at the time, its chief executive Darren Grayson, pictured below, said changes were already being made to improve things.
And speaking to the Observer he said ‘notable’ improvements were already in place.
However, a follow-up visit in April revealed that progress was not being made quickly enough to satisfy the CQC, and the trust has now been threatened with prosecution.
If it fails to raise patient care standards in time, the hospital could also be forced to close certain services.
A spokesman for the CQC said the trust had ‘failed to protect the safety and welfare of people who use its service’ and that the hospital was ‘still failing to meet essential standards of quality and safety’.
Roxy Boyce, CQC regional director for the south east said: “Despite the fact we have raised these concerns with the trust previously, it has not addressed them satisfactorily.
“There have been some improvements – but not enough.”
And they revealed that contrary to claims by the trust, staff were still making fundamental mistakes - including not helping patients eat and drink.
The latest CQC report, which has not yet been made public, also found patient records were inaccurate or incomplete and risk assessments were not being done properly.
Ms Boyce said: “Failure to properly complete risk assessments and patient records means that 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 trust discussed the report’s findings at a meeting on Wednesday but the Observer was barred from sitting in despite the rest of the morning-long meeting being held in public.
And in a bizarre statement released this week, the trust celebrated two of the three warning notices being lifted even though the CQC had still identified a number of serious problems.
Mr Grayson did however accept patients had been let down.
He said: “I apologise to those patients whose care has fallen below acceptable standards. We have taken significant steps to address the concerns raised by the CQC following its inspections in February and this has led to the lifting of two of the warning notices served on the trust at the time.
“However, many of these issues have built up over time and will require change over the long term in order to fully address them.
“We have a number of programmes in progress to address the concerns raised and we recognise that we are on a journey of continuous improvement and cultural change in order to embed the changes across the organisation.
“We are confident that we will have made further significant progress by September 2 and are working closely with the CQC to ensure that our actions bring step-by-step improvements.”