Poor staffing levels and a “worrying disconnect” between managers and frontline staff has led regulators to recommend that East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust be placed in special measures.
The Care Quality Commission has recommended the foundation trust be placed in the regime for failing NHS organisations, despite its good inspection record under the regulator’s old inspection model.
The CQC’s findings follows its inspection of the three acute hospitals managed by the trust, which were rated as either “requiring improvement” or “inadequate” under its new regime. Overall, the trust was rated “inadequate”.
“We were extremely concerned at the disconnect we identified between the senior team and the staff working on the frontline”
All three hospitals had been given a clean bill of health under the CQC’s previous system, which was superseded by a more intensive inspection process in September last year.
In its latest report, published today, the CQC said its inspectors identified a “worrying disconnect” between trust management and frontline staff.
Several employees raised “serious concerns” with inspectors about the trust’s culture, admitting they would not “whistle blow” for fear of the consequences or because they thought nothing would change.
The report also flagged up insufficient staffing levels in accident and emergency, children’s care and at night.
Safety and leadership at the trust were rated as “inadequate” and the effectiveness and responsiveness of services as “requires improvement”.
A number of buildings and equipment were poorly maintained. However, caring at the trust was rated as “good”.
CQC chief inspector of hospitals, Sir Mike Richards, said: “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… the board was at times receiving false assurance through governance procedures,” he said.
“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,” Sir Mike stated.
The formal decision to put the East Kent trust into special measures now lies with the CQC’s fellow regulator Monitor.
A Monitor spokesman said: “We are reviewing the CQC’s report on East Kent and working to identify the best course of action to tackle the specific problems that have been uncovered.”
“We will shortly announce what our next steps will be to improve services at the trust.”
“We have invested an additional £2.9m to recruit 69 nurses where shortages exist”
Trust chief executive Stuart Bain said: “Much of what is in the report we have already recognised and we are working to address.
“Following a staffing review, we have invested an additional £2.9m to recruit 69 nurses where shortages exist,” said Mr Bain.
“We have also recently appointed an additional four general surgeons and will be recruiting a further three surgeons very shortly.”
Mr Bain said an investment of £28m in improved facilities, including a new hospital in Dover, would also start to address problems identified by the CQC.
He added: “Our task as leaders of the organisation is now to work with our staff and our partners, including the clinical commissioning groups, to address the issues that have been raised.”
13 August 2014