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02.09.14

East Kent NHS Trust put into special measures

Monitor has put East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust into special measures due to serious failures in safety and leadership.

The special measures move follows a recent inspection by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) which found a number of problems at the trust, including in A&E, surgery and services for young people. The report stated that patient safety was affected by low staffing levels and cultural issues, and staff surveys cited cases of bullying.

The trust is responsible for running five hospitals in Kent. The CQC rated the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford and the Kent and Canterbury Hospital as "inadequate", while Margate’s Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Hospital was said to “require improvement”. Services at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Folkestone and Buckland Hospital in Dover have not been inspected as yet.

Monitor has accepted the recommendation of Professor Sir Mike Richards, the chief inspector of hospitals at CQC, and is using a package of regulatory measures to enforce it.

Prof 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 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.”

Under the special measures regime, an Improvement Director will be appointed to provide support to the trust and hold it to account for making progress. The trust will also publish monthly updates of the changes it is making to improve the services it offers to patients.

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.

Paul Streat, regional director at Monitor, 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.”

In response the trust’s chief executive, Stuart Bain, said that East Kent is committed to working with staff and health partners to address the concerns raised by the CQC and Monitor.

He added: “We had already recognised some areas for improvement. For example we are investing an additional £2.9m 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 £28m 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.”

(The Accident and Emergency Department of the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, Kent. Image: c. Gareth Fuller/PA)

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