Published: 00:01, 02 September 2014
A health trust responsible for running five hospitals in Kent has been placed into special measures.
Government health regulator Monitor has taken the drastic action against East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust because of “serious failures in patient safety and leadership”.
It follows a damning inspection by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in March, which uncovered a catalogue of problems.
It rated the William Harvey in Ashford and the Kent and Canterbury as "inadequate", while Margate’s QEQM Hospital was said to “require improvement”.
Inspectors reported failures across all three sites, including in A&E, children's care, outpatients and general surgery.
They also found patient safety was affected by low staffing levels and cultural issues, and staff surveys cited cases of bullying.
The Chief Inspector of Hospitals, Sir Mike Richards, recommended the trust be placed into special measures when the report was published last month.
He said: “When we inspected all three hospitals run by East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust, we were extremely concerned at the disconnect we identified between the senior team and the staff working on the frontline.
“We saw ineffective leadership in action across a number of clinical services, and that the board was at times receiving false assurance through governance procedures.
“It is a lack of effective leadership, alongside care failings across the majority of services we inspected, which has led me to recommend to the foundation trust regulator Monitor that the trust be placed in special measures.
“This will allow the trust to receive the additional support that I believe it needs to deliver safe, caring, effective and responsive services to the local populations it serves.”
Monitor yesterday accepted the recommendation, forcing the trust to follow a strict package of regulatory measures and answer to an improvement director appointed to hold it to account.
It will also have to publish monthly updates of the changes it is making to improve the services it offers to patients.
It has agreed to put in place a plan to fix its problems as quickly as possible, and to carry out reviews of its leadership and the way it measures patient waiting times.
“The trust needs to urgently improve the safety of care for patients, and strengthen its management to better support frontline staff..." - Monitor's regional director Paul Streat
Monitor is also imposing an additional licence condition on the trust so that if it fails to make the changes needed, further action could be taken, including replacing members of the trust’s leadership team if necessary.
Monitor’s regional director Paul Streat said: “The trust needs to urgently improve the safety of care for patients, and strengthen its management to better support frontline staff.
“By putting the trust into special measures we can ensure they turn things around quickly.
“Senior leaders need to listen to and work with all staff to understand and tackle problems on their wards.
“We will help the trust to do this, and to make lasting improvements to the services that people in east Kent rely on.”
The trust's chief executive Stuart Bain is set to stand down at the end of the year for health reasons.
Responding to the decision, he said “We want to work with our regulator Monitor, our staff and our health partners to make improvements to the services we provide to the people of east Kent.
"We had already recognised some areas for improvement.
"For example we are investing an additional £2.9 million to recruit 69 nurses where shortages exist - 55 of these have been recruited already.
"We have also recently appointed an additional four general surgeons and will be recruiting a further three surgeons very shortly.
"In addition we identified the need to improve our appointment system some time ago and have just completed a public consultation on our outpatient services that will allow us to make improvements to the services we offer patients.
"New appointment booking systems, more flexible appointments, and an investment of £28 million in improved facilities, including a new hospital in Dover, will start to address these issues.
"The Trust is committed to working with staff and health partners to produce an action plan to address the issues raised by the CQC and Monitor and to see us removed from special measures as soon as possible.”
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