Medical negligence

‘Urgent improvement necessary at Royal Sussex’ says CQC

The scandal-hit Royal Sussex County Hospital must make urgent improvements to its leadership and support of staff – in conditions previously described as being ruled by a ‘culture of fear’ – after failings were again shown in its latest CQC report.

23 February 2024

The report found a “deterioration in the quality and safety of the medical care services” at the hospital, which is already subject to the Operation Bramber investigation by Sussex Police for alleged failings in its general surgery and neurosurgery departments.

The unannounced inspection, in August last year, rated the hospital overall as requiring improvement – but its maternity services remained inadequate.

The CQC report comes only shortly after a report from the Royal College of Surgeons, which detailed a “culture of fear” in the Royal Sussex and wider University Hospitals Sussex Trust, with “poor management of services for over 20 years” and regular leadership changes resulting in a lack of direction.

The CQC found the Royal Sussex’s surgery offering – which is subject to police investigation involving up to 100 cases between 2015 to 2021 – had improved since the last inspection in 2019 and was given a rating of ‘requires improvement’ but said that urgent improvement remained necessary.

The service did not have enough staff, said CQC, with many raising concerns about safety as a result. Patients faced long waiting times to access the service, with repeated cancellations a common occurrence.

The report echoed the findings of the Royal College of Surgeons report with its concerns around staff culture, stating: “We spoke with 30 members of staff who gave us examples of bullying in the unit with a divided workforce and a perception that some staff were treated differently to others.

“Staff told us they were placed in difficult circumstances daily and they did not feel listened to when they reported these concerns.”

The Royal Sussex’s maternity service was given a warning notice in September 2021 to make improvements, citing concerns including lack of suitably trained staff, poor assessment and governance, and that lessons were not always learned from safety failings.

Its inadequate rating is still in place, having last been inspected in July 2022.

We supporting a growing number of individuals and families whose lives have been impacted by failings at the Royal Sussex and held a legal clinic earlier this month in Brighton to offer free legal advice to local people to ensure anyone affected was aware of their legal position and rights.

Nisha Sharma, principal lawyer in the clinical negligence team, says: “This new CQC report gives yet more clarity around the sub-standard practices and standards of care that are being delivered by the Royal Sussex, and again shows why urgent action cannot wait any longer.

“I live in Brighton with my family and am all too aware of the huge levels of concern this is causing in the local community. This report again highlights issues around the culture and leadership at the hospital, and this must be addressed as a matter of priority to tackle some of the main causes of the problems here at the root.

"We are currently investigating claims for a number of people who have been affected by poor standards of care at the Royal Sussex, with enquiries being received continually. We would urge anyone who has concerns over their treatment at this hospital to get in touch – we can help.”

How can Slater and Gordon help?

We have a dedicated team of medical negligence solicitors who are based in Brighton and are on hand to offer their support and legal expertise.

If you have been affected by any of the issues that have taken place at the Royal Sussex County Hospital, we are here to help. For more information, visit here or contact us online

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