Brighton hospital bosses said that they had already taken urgent steps to respond to a critical CQC report that found maternity services and surgery were unsafe, poorly led and inadequate.
The report by the Care Quality Commission, the official health and care watchdog, was published today (Friday 10 December).
University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust said that it had “taken urgent action to make improvements required by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) following an inspection of its maternity and surgery services”.
The CQC visited maternity services across the trust and surgery services at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in September.
The trust said: “Its inspectors recognised the efforts of staff in the face of unprecedented pressure on services but identified a range of improvements needed.
“UHSussex was made aware of these at the beginning of November and has already taken steps to address the issues raised and make sure it continues to provide safe care.
“Most of the CQC’s concerns relate to staffing and demand pressures, as well as to the continuing impact of covid-19.
“However, they also included specific issues around minimum standards and support for staff.
“UHSussex has now taken wide-ranging action on the issues needing an immediate response and has plans in place to address those that require a longer-term approach.
“On staffing, for example, the trust has recruited more than 200 qualified nurses from overseas this year alone and has new funding for 40 extra midwives and obstetricians.
“It is also carrying out daily reviews of maternity staffing, led by its chief nurse, to confirm it can provide one-to-one care for birthing mothers.”
The trust said that other steps included
- Reinforcement of infection prevention and control compliance, including weekly audits and a new escalation policy to manage theatre activity
- The appointment of a director of midwifery
- A clinically led review and reduction in incident backlogs
- Engagement and listening events held for staff in surgery and maternity to hear and understand concerns
- Developing further workforce and wellbeing action plans
- Greater visibility of senior leadership
- Renewed focus on staff training
- Review of and investment in the trust’s governance systems
The trust’s chief executive, Dame Marianne Griffiths, who has announced her retirement next year, said: “We take the CQC’s findings very seriously.
“As soon as we received the inspectors’ initial feedback, we acted immediately to make urgent improvements to ensure we continue to provide safe care.
“Hospitals all across the country have felt the strain of the pandemic and we are no exception.
“A combination of extraordinary levels of need for our services and high rates of staff absence related to covid has left our staffing rotas extremely stretched and this pressure has led to many of the issues the CQC raised.
“We are doing everything in our power to tackle the underlying issue of staffing numbers. We have recently confirmed funds for 40 new midwives and obstetricians.
“We are also recruiting more qualified nurses from overseas and partnering with the Universities of Brighton and Chichester to train more nursing and medical staff to work in our hospitals.
“However, we fully accept there is more we can and must do, not just around staffing, but also in making sure we are meeting required standards day in, day out, and that we give our staff the support they need and deserve.”
Alan McCarthy, who chairs the trust’s board, said: “The board takes the report very seriously and is fully committed to making the improvements needed to ensure we continue to provide safe care for our patients.
“Our staff across UHSussex have not wavered in their dedication to good and compassionate patient care and we are enormously grateful for their commitment.
“We have moved quickly to make immediate improvements and will continue to drive forward the actions needed in the other areas the CQC has identified.”