Healthwatch’s response to the latest CQC report on Royal Sussex County Hospital (14.2.24)

February 15, 2024
  • The Care Quality Commission has issued a series of reports following an unannounced visit in August 2023 across four hospital sites operated by University Hospitals Sussex NHS Trust. The CQC last published reports in May 2023.
  • The report into the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton provides a new rating of “Requires Improvement”, having previously been classified as “Inadequate” (the lowest rating). The quality of care at RSCH continues to be rated as “outstanding”.
  • Healthwatch continues to share the patient experiences and stories we receive, with the Trust and CQC to support improvements and inspections.

On Wednesday 14th February 2024, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) published a series of reports on University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust (UHSx). The reports follow an inspection carried out seven months ago (in August 2023) which focused on surgery and medicine, but also to check on the programme of improvement work carried out by the trust in response to concerns CQC raised at previous inspections.

The overall rating for the Trust remains at “Requires Improvement”. The Royal Sussex County Hospital RSCH, (Brighton) has seen an improvement in its individual rating, having gone up from “Inadequate” in May 2023, to “Requires Improvement”. Medical care (including older people’s care) has however dropped from “Good” to “Requires Improvement”. The CQC report nevertheless recognises the actions taken by the Trust to make improvements since its last inspection.

Separately, the Princess Royal Hospital (PRH, Haywards Heath) has seen its overall rating remain as “Requires Improvement”, whilst St Richards Hospital (Chichester) and Worthing Hospital have both seen their overall ratings drop from “outstanding” to “Requires Improvement”.

The CQC reports highlight positive findings across the hospital sites inspected:

  • Good care and treatment.
  • Kind and compassionate staff.
  • Teams working well together.
  • Patients being respected and involved in their care.
  • Patients being supported to lead healthier lives.
  • Good local leadership.
  • And at Royal Sussex County Hospital, the service was found to plan care to meet the needs of local people; took account of peoples’ individual needs and made it easy for people to give feedback.

But key challenges were also noted across the four sites:

  • There weren’t always enough staff to care for people and keep them safe.
  • Staff didn’t always manage medicines well.
  • The service did not effectively plan care to meet the needs of local people, with demand outstripping capacity, apart from at Royal Sussex County Hospital.
  • People could not always access services when they needed it and had to wait too long for treatment, with often repeated cancellations.
  • The environments did not always support safe care and treatment.
  • And at Royal Sussex County Hospital, some of the negative findings included patient records not being easily accessible for all staff or were not audited and that outcomes for people were not always positive.

Executive Director, Veronica Kirwan, said:

“It is good to read that improvements have been made to some aspects of surgical services which has long been an area of focus. It is equally disappointing to read there has been a deterioration in the quality and safety of the medical care services (since 2019).

“As the independent patient watchdog, we are pleased that the Trust’s senior team has openly invited us to meet regularly with them to discuss their improvement plans.

“We are encouraged by the Trust’s dedication to delivering change. This has included inviting the Royal College of Surgeons to conduct an independent review of surgery. The review found better governance, a better culture of learning and effective leadership alongside a need to improve capacity, recruitment and morale. The Trust has also:

  • approved investment in more Surgery staff, including consultants, and recruitment is underway.
  • undertaken a reorganisation of nursing activity to increase specialist care time for patients.
  • commissioned a project examining staff culture and relationships

“It is clear that these improvements will take time to be fully realised.

“Hidden beneath these latest CQC reports are the dedicated staff providing care to patients every day, which the CQC recognises as being “outstanding”. In addition, The Trust has worked hard to improve their performance against the government’s 4 hour Emergency Department target and to tackle waiting list sizes. But, it is still the case that too many patients are waiting too long to be seen and their health may be suffering as a result.

“Healthwatch will continue to provide external scrutiny and we will also continue to offer our support to the Trust as it implements further changes.”

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