Chairman calls for East Sussex Healthcare Trust to be '˜open and transparent'

The man who has taken on one of the top jobs at an inadequate hospital trust said new leadership will '˜refresh' the organisation.

David Clayton-Smith, new chairman of East Sussex Healthcare Trust SUS-161101-143948001
David Clayton-Smith, new chairman of East Sussex Healthcare Trust SUS-161101-143948001

In January, David Clayton-Smith was appointed chairman of East Sussex Healthcare Trust – a position formerly held by the unpopular Stuart Welling.

Five weeks in to his new role, Mr Clayton Smith has shared his vision for the trust, which runs Eastbourne DGH and Conquest Hospital in Hastings.

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“It is a hard job to provide good, productive relationships across the system,” said Mr Clayton Smith. “But we have a responsibilty to establish good relationships.”

Following an inspection in 2014, CQC inspectors found a ‘worrying disconnect’ between senior managers and frontline staff and allegations of bullying.

Mr Clayton-Smith said the behaviour of the board and at the top of the organisation has a big impression on the trust and the staff.

“New leadership will be a refreshment,” he said.

“We need to be open and transparent, constructive and supportive for our staff. We’re very pleased to have appointed a new chief executive.”

With six years experience in the NHS – he was chairman of NHS Sussex between 2012 and 2013 and has been a non-executive director at Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust – David also worked for major UK businesses, including Halfords and Boots the Chemist.

He said he will use his experience from the corporate world to help the trust ‘look outside itself’.

“You can get rather introspective as an organisation.

“The really big difference between a hospital and a normal commercial organisation is we have to be able to provide a service to everyone. We have a duty of care to make sure they get good quality care.

“We need to look out at our patients and our partners and work as productively as we can within the whole system.”

Mr Clayton-Smith said the key to improving the trust – following its inadequate CQC inspection last year – was to create a ‘long term, sustainable trust’.

“This isn’t a quick fix, addressing all the issues the CQC has identified,” he told the Observer. “It is very hard to do that. We are going to have to be in very constructive conversations with our fellow providers.”

Mr Clayton-Smith said money and staffing levels were the biggest problems facing the trust.

“We need to address the use of agency staff and what drives that. It’s expensive.

“We have already managed to recruit two more emergency doctors,” he said. “We have recruited up to our agreed levels for health care assistants and 97 nurses are starting over the next two to three months to bring our nursing levels up.”

The trust has been struggling to staff the 57 extra ‘escalation’ beds which opened as a result of winter pressures.

“We are having to staff these wards and these beds, which we weren’t anticipating,” said Mr Clayton-Smith, who said the vast majority of patients using the beds are older people, with more complicated conditions.

“We need to find a solution with our colleagues to find a better place for these patients to be.

“That isn’t self-interested – although it does impact the flow of patients through the hospital.

“These are real challenges.”

Mr Clayton-Smith said he will be making sure he meets with partners across East Sussex, including county councillors, East Sussex Clinical Commissioning Groups and health watchdogs.

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