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Care Quality Commission calls for Kent hospitals to be put into special measures

East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust ranked as inadequate

15 July 2014

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has rated East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust (“the Trust”) as inadequate, and has recommended that it be placed in special measures.

The announcement follows the publication of a report by the CQC on the quality of care provided by the Trust. Services were assessed as being inadequate for safety and leadership.  The effectiveness and responsiveness of the service was ranked as requiring improvement. 

Clinical negligence lawyer at Leigh Day, Emmalene Bushnell, said, “It is simply unacceptable that people living in East Kent are being served by hospitals with an inadequate safety record.”

Significantly the number of staff working for the Trust who would recommend the trust as a place to the treated or to work was below the England average.

CQC inspectors noted that risks to patients were not always identified or acted upon and that several clinical services were poorly led.  There were also concerns about under-staffing in a number of areas, particularly in A&E, at night and in children’s care.

The report found that patient safety incidents were not always identified and reported. Audits were not always carried out effectively, and an incident reporting system was not always used 

Inspections were carried out at William Harvey Hospital, Ashford, Kent and Canterbury Hospital, Canterbury, and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital, Margate, in March. 

William Harvey Hospital

William Harvey Hospital (“WHH”) was rated as inadequate for accident & emergency care, surgery and paediatrics.

Improvement was required in the areas of medical care, maternity and family planning, end of life care and outpatient services. Overall the hospital was rated inadequate.

The CQC told WHH that it must take action in a number of areas including ensuring that adequate, suitably skilled staff are always on duty, that the hospital and equipment are always clean, well-maintained and fit for purpose, and that staff are better informed of end of life care arrangements, which should be reviewed for consistency. 

Kent and Canterbury Hospital 

Kent and Canterbury Hospital was also rated as inadequate for surgery.  Its accident and emergency care, medical care, paediatrics’ care, end of life care and outpatient services were all noted to require improvement. Under-staffing was also identified as a problem at this hospital, particularly for paediatric staff.

Action required by the CQC at the Kent and Canterbury Hospital included identifying at board level who is responsible for services for children and young people; ensuring adequate administrative support in outpatient services; and ensuring that risks to patients using these services due to delays and cancellations is properly assessed and mitigated.

Arrangements for end of life care need to be clarified to staff to ensure that the patient is protected against the risk of receiving inappropriate care.

Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital

The Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital (“QEQM”) was ranked as requiring improvement overall. Accident and emergency was rated as inadequate. Medical care, surgery, maternity and family planning, children’s care, end of life care and outpatient services were all rated as requiring improvement.

Once again staffing levels were identified as a problem with the A&E department being very reliant on temporary staff which was creating a risk to patient safety. The QEQM was also noted to be poorly led, and services for children and young people were not effective. 

Actions was required in a number of areas, including safety in A&E; better discharge planning; and better management of outpatient appointments to avoid delay. 

The clinical negligence team at Leigh Day has handled a number of cases where patient safety or care has been compromised.

Case study 1

Leigh Day has brought a successful claim against Kent & Canterbury Hospital for poor care they provided to an elderly client of ours. 

Our client suffered a severe brain injury from which she never fully recovered as a result of the hospital staff’s failure to monitor her properly and, ultimately, their failure to promptly treat her when she was admitted as an emergency. 

She went on to suffer a respiratory arrest, which could have been avoided with better care. Sadly, our client died before the claim concluded but Nicola Wainwright, a partner in the clinical negligence department, was able to obtain compensation for Alice’s family for her injuries and the losses that that her husband and children had sustained as a result of the hospital’s failures.

Case study 2

The medical negligence team has also investigated claims against the hospitals run by East Kent Hospitals NHS Trust for families following the deaths of their babies. 

In two separate incidents the babies of our clients were stillborn, following failures in the care provided to their mothers during the antenatal period. We have already brought one of these claims to a successful conclusion, obtaining compensation and an apology for our client.

Clinical negligence lawyer Emmalene Bushnell said:

“We hope that the findings identified by the CQC in their report are accepted and acted upon with immediate effect.  It is essential that patients attending these hospitals are confident that the treating doctors and systems in place will protect them from injury, and that there are appropriate mechanisms in place for reporting any breaches of safety and dealing with them.” 


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