The chief executive and chairman of Brighton and Hove’s main hospital trust are to stand down at the end of next March.
The news came in a letter to staff from Gillian Fairfield, the interim chief executive of Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the Royal Sussex County Hospital.
Dr Fairfield and interim chairman Tony Kildare both took on their roles as interims so it will surprise few people that they are to stand down.
In her letter to staff Dr Fairfield confirmed that Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals (BSUH) is to merge with – or be taken over by – Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
However, she and her colleagues are keen to describe the arrangement as a “longer-term partnership” rather than a merger.
The move comes less than three months after BSUH was placed in special measures after it was rated inadequate by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). It has also since been placed in financial special measures after forecasting a year-end deficit of £60 million.
In addition to the Royal Sussex, BSUH runs the outstanding Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital and the Sussex Eye Hospital, in Brighton, and the Princess Royal Hospital, in Haywards Heath.
Western Sussex Hospitals was rated outstanding by the CQC earlier this year. The trust runs St Richard’s Hospital, in Chichester, and Worthing Hospital.
Here is the text of Dr Fairfield’s letter to staff …
I am writing to tell you that later today NHS Improvement will announce a new working agreement between BSUH and Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust that will help us continue to make the necessary improvements to our services.
The agreement will involve an interim arrangement between the two trusts to begin a new way of working together, with a view to developing a longer-term partnership between the two organisations.
It is important to stress that this is not a “merger” of the trusts. We will continue to operate as two separate organisations.
The intention is that the chief executive and chair of Western Sussex will also carry out those roles for BSUH from 1 April 2017.
My secondment as interim chief executive is due to end in March. Until 1 April, Western Sussex will not have responsibility for the day-to-day operational management of BSUH, which remains the responsibility of our board.
In the interim period, an Improvement Oversight Group, comprising of the leadership of both BSUH and Western Sussex, will be set up to oversee the development of the long-term arrangement and will be jointly chaired by the leaders of Western Sussex and the regional south team of NHS Improvement.
The interim arrangement up until April will act like a buddying support arrangement, similar to that seen in other areas of the country.
Trusts in special measures across the NHS have benefited from forming close partnerships with successful neighbouring trusts and it is hoped that we will be able to benefit from working with Western, which is one of only five trusts in England to be rated outstanding by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
The agreement will provide support to assist us in addressing the issues that have led the trust being placed in special measures for finance and quality while working to develop a long-term arrangement.
I know there has been speculation about this arrangement among staff over the last few days and I apologise that we were unable to speak openly about the details up until now. This was necessary, however, as we were unable to talk about the arrangement until it was officially agreed.
As you know, since we had the CQC inspection in April, we have been working incredibly hard to stabilise the trust and to make all the immediate changes and improvements needed.
We have developed a comprehensive Quality and Safety Improvement Plan and have been making significant progress in a large number of areas to ensure patients being cared for in our hospitals today are getting a better standard of service.
Our A&E performance has improved markedly, our diagnostic waiting times are now in line with national standards and we have reduced the time a large number of our cancer patients wait for treatment.
It is essential that we keep up the momentum we have started and this new arrangement with Western will provide additional support that will help ensure this is achieved.
I recognise there has been a lot of change and instability for staff at the trust throughout this year but I believe this new arrangement will prove to be positive for our organisation, our patients and our staff in the short term and long term.
There are many examples of excellent individuals, teams, departments and whole services across our trust and we have many things to be proud of.
Our aim is to have consistently high quality across the whole organisation and to deliver services in a financially sustainable way.
It is clear that for us to achieve this in the long term, we need additional support and we hope that by working closely with Western we can take another significant step towards getting to where we want to be.
We will be holding open forums for all staff at both sites to hear more detail about this new arrangement and to ask any questions you may have.
They will be on
Thank you for you continued dedication and support.