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‘No end in sight’: CQC takes urgent action at East Kent FT as children put at risk by staffing levels

The CQC has taken “urgent action” to protect the children being cared for by East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust after they were being put at risk by “unsafe” staffing levels.

Inspectors found that the two hospitals run by the trust were failing to provide round-the-clock cover in the children’s emergency departments, forcing children to wait in the main A&E with adult patients exhibiting “volatile behaviour” and issues with alcohol.

The inspectors were particularly concerned about reports of “abrupt and judgemental attitudes” shown by administrative and senior staff, and both hospitals faced major issues with staff capacity unable to keep up with high demand.

Staff at the hospitals had also not been trained nor did they have the resources to care for children with mental health conditions or learning disabilities.

The children’s departments at the William Harvey Hospital (WHH) in Ashford and the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital (QEQM) were rated as ‘inadequate’.

The CQC’s deputy chief inspector of hospitals Nigel Acheson said that it had used enforcement powers to ensure that “appropriate action is taken to protect young patients.”

He commented: “It is clear that the children’s services at East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust have been working under some pressure, apparently with no end in sight.”

Acheson said the CQC had found a generally strong and caring workforce that had been overstretched, and there were also concerns over data not being properly reported to the board, giving them false assurances about the quality and safety of care.

The CQC said it had used its enforcement powers to impose conditions on the trust for it to comply with, including sending weekly reports to the health inspectorate such as staffing and patient numbers.

Following the report, East Kent Hospitals trust has announced “immediate and significant changes” to its hospital care, beginning a 12-month intensive improvement programme for its children’s services.

Actions taken include increasing staffing levels, retraining staff and implementing a new daily safety checklist across all hospital areas.

The trust’s chief executive Susan Acott said staff had worked quickly. She added that the trust is “changing everyday working practices and how services are managed to make hospital services for children and young people safe.”


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