A leading teaching hospital has been served with a warning notice by the Care Quality Commission.
Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust has been given until the end of August to make improvements in three areas.
“We found that patients were not receiving the quality of care that they are entitled to expect, or within the timescales required”
These were to improve its systems to ensure that both inpatients and outpatients are assessed, monitored and risks mitigated, as patients were described by the CQC as being put at “unnecessary risk”.
In addition, it needed to make improvements in ensuring the care, privacy and dignity of people attending both the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton and the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath, and seeing patients in line with national timescales for diagnosis and treatment.
The trust has many patients waiting a long time for treatment and said recently it did not expect to meet the referral to treatment target until 2018. It had 9,000 patients waiting longer than 18 weeks.
As recently reported by Nursing Times, two nurses removed from duty at the trust amid claims that their removal is linked to a highly critical inspection by regulators.
The warning notice comes after a CQC inspection in April, shortly after seconded chief executive Gillian Fairfield took over. The trust’s chair Julian Lee stepped down in May. The previous permanent chief executive, Matthew Kershaw, left the trust at the end of last year.
Dr Fairfield said: “We are very sorry that we have let down out patients, their relatives and our local communities. For the trust board and our executive leadership the priority now is to do everything we can to put matters right and ensure that our patients receive the safe and high quality care that they deserve and have a right to expect.”
She added that the warning notice made “difficult reading” but said there had already been changes at both executive and non-executive level since the inspection.
Changes already made included modifying escalation processes during periods of high demand in the emergency department, a redesign of the emergency department in Brighton, the opening of a 24/7 surgical assessment for GP referrals, and using patient quality and safety checklists, she said.
Professor Edward Baker, CQC deputy chief inspector of hospitals, said: “People being treated at the Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust are entitled to a service that is consistently safe, effective and responsive to their needs. Throughout our inspection we found that patients were not receiving the quality of care that they are entitled to expect, or within the timescales required.
“There is limited evidence to show these issues were being addressed at board level. We have told the trust they must improve and treat patients in a timely manner with care, dignity and respect,” he said.
The trust’s accident and emergency services were rated inadequate in a CQC inspection a year ago.
The CQC said a report of the latest inspection will be published ”in due course”.