Concern over care for the elderly at EDGH

We are writing to express our deep concern about care generally and, in particular, in relation to elderly and vulnerable patients at Eastbourne District General Hospital.

Personal experience and considerable anecdotal evidence shows that there has been, and continues to be, a disconnect between compassion and care at the DGH.

We believe poor leadership and management at all levels have resulted in a demoralised workforce and an inability to recruit and/or retain suitably qualified staff.

These are major issues not only for patients and their relatives or carers but also for the many staff who do a great job

but get ‘tarred with the same brush’ when complaints are made.

These staff deserve to work within an organisation with an inspiring leadership that will initiate change to create a hospital both they and the community can be proud of.

Furthermore, our experiences and those reported to us by others suggest that not only are there issues around compassionate care but also medical care. Currently we know of several cases that are being handled by Leigh Day and Mayo Wynne Baxter solicitors and there are also others that are under investigation or with an advocate.

We believe that many incidents of poor or inadequate care at the DGH go unreported by patients due to: an expectation of failure to make a difference; emotional stress; a mistaken belief that some form of retribution will occur; people (particularly the elderly) not wanting to ‘make a fuss’; lack of time, stamina or mental capacity to pursue a complaint and insufficient knowledge as to what constitutes good care or treatment and the measures which should be in place to achieve these.

This is supported by the fact that only 30,076 of your “service users” completed surveys in 2013/14. The figures for staff surveys are equally dismal. A recent survey by Which? suggests that only one third of people complain about public services and of these 39% feel ignored and 49% are dissatisfied with the response.

We understand that the board has a duty to discuss statistics at its meetings. However, a meeting consisting wholly of statistics and their subjective interpretation is hardly the way to produce the improvements that are long overdue at the DGH.

Our research shows that other trusts have managed to significantly improve their ratings within 18-24 months eg Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Other trusts realised that their whole culture needed to change some time ago and are now at the top of the ratings tables eg Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust.

ln summary, we consider that the current managementa systems and processes at the DGH are still failing to produce quality care as outlined in NHS Englands Compassion in Practice strategy.

Mrs P Langford, Mrs T Owen, Mrs J Wilkinson

Campaign for change, Polegate

Response from Stuart Welling, chairman, East Sussex Healthcare Trust:

Thank you for your letter of 26th September 2014 which was received in my office on the 30th September 2014. I have read your letter carefully and although I will respond to the points you have raised I do think it would be best if we were to meet to discuss the issues in greater detail. I look forward to your confirmation that this is acceptable to you.

Turning to the points you have raised l will make the following observations by way of reply:

1. I believe the standards of care at Eastbourne DGH (EDGH) continue to be good and that staff demonstrate high standards of compassionate care to patients. The evidence to support this includes recent CQC surveys of patients, the data on outcomes for patients and the plaudits We receive every day from patients as well as my personal experience each day as I walk around the hospital and talk to staff, patients and their families. When there are lapses in care we address them quickly and learn from our mistakes. You make several assertions about standards of care and refer to anecdotal evidence but you do not actually present any evidence. If you have evidence please provide it, and we will investigate and respond.

2. With respect to recruitment the fact is that EDGH is quite easy to recruit to in the vast majority of specialties and disciplines (We are currently short listing for a consultant appointment from 32 well qualified applicants). Where there are recruitment difficulties they relate to well known national shortages. We have comparatively very few vacancies in the nursing workforce, for instance.

3. You mention ‘issues around compassionate care and medical care’ but again provide no evidence. We are aware of the small number of cases with the legal firms you mention and that they see their engagement with you as a useful means of publicity to attract business. However, if you have evidence please make it available and we will investigate and respond.

4. The response rate of patients, families and carers to the various opportunities to comment and rate care is around the average for the NHS and our response rate for the recently introduced Friends and Family Test is good.

5. At the AGM Mr Grayson confirmed that the CQC Inspection was a routine planned inspection - a fact recently confirmed by the CQC itself.

6. The AGM and the subsequent Board meeting did not ‘consist wholly of statistics’ as a cursory examination of the papers will demonstrate. The AGM included a presentation of the Quality Account and the Board meeting dwelled at considerable length on issues related to patient safety and the quality of services.

Over the past few years this Trust has made some very brave moves to address shortcomings in its services and make substantial improvements. We have done this in a whole range of areas including maternity, paediatrics, surgery, orthopaedics, stroke care and emergency medicine. These changes have been designed and implemented by our leading doctors and nurses supported by management. During this period We have been subject to attack by local politicians and pressure groups who have opposed all the changes made. The demoralising effect of this criticism on our staff has been significant and recently you may have seen a letter from several of our staff making theirfeelings known (see attached). | arn sorry that you have chosen to ally yourselves with these critics on the basis of what appears very little, if any1 evidence.

I am also sorry you have chosen to engage with the Trust in such a hostile and inflammatory manner. We would be very happy to facilitate a meeting for you with front line clinical staff so that you may express your views and they can respond. Again please let me know if you would like to take up this offer.