It is extremely concerning that East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust is “likely” to be put in special measures.
Earlier this year, the trust – which runs the Conquest Hospital in Hastings and Eastbourne District General Hospital – was again in the limelight when it was branded as “inadequate” by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
Nearly six months later, it is frustrating to learn that the trust has failed to improve and implement the necessary actions in light of the shortcomings identified by the CQC and that the health watchdog is now threatening to place the trust into special measures.
If this proposal goes ahead, it will undermine the trust and confidence of a large number of NHS patients, particularly those living in the South East given that two other trusts, namely East Kent Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and Medway NHS Foundation Trust, have also been placed into special measures.
In March 2015, the CQC expressed its concerns over the surgical practices and maternity and outpatients’ services at Eastbourne District General Hospital. CQC inspectors reported that improvement measures were needed to counteract the threats to patient health posed by inadequate safety standards and the poor practices prevailing within the hospital.
The comments from the health watchdog at the time provided an insight into the “poor state of repair” of the health records, clinics being manned in the absence of patients’ records and “inappropriate staff behaviour towards patients, relatives and staff.”
Whether these comments uncover the circumstances surrounding an incident that occurred in late 2014 when a breast cancer patient died following an operation, after which the surgeon concerned explicitly admitted fault, is open to consideration.
In May 2015, East Sussex NHS Trust had to apologise after a large number of patients were sent leaflets suggesting that they might have cancer and referring them for an urgent appointment.
The trust explained the negligent mail-out as an administrative oversight on the part of an external printing company which was used to print and distribute appointment letters. Unsurprisingly, the apology was a small comfort to the patients who had suffered such distress upon receiving the leaflets in error.
In light of the above, readers are invited to consider how many are those patients who must have used the trust but suffered from the consequences of its shortcomings. The trust Chief Executive stated, “we are incredibly disappointed to receive the inadequate rating from the Care Quality Commission… improvements have already been made.”
These reforms are long overdue. It would certainly be in the best interests of all NHS users in the South East for the CQC to step in and adopt a course of action aimed at bringing about significant progress.
Nisha Sharma is a Senior Clinical Negligence Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers UK.
If you or a member of your family suffered from negligent treatment in hospital, call our Medical Negligence Solicitors for a free consultation on freephone 0800 916 9049 or contact us online.