Hospital boss insists standards won’t slip by supporting troubled trust

Marianne Griffiths, the chief executive of the Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Marianne Griffiths, the chief executive of the Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

The chief executive of the NHS trust which runs ‘outstanding’ hospitals in Chichester and Worthing has moved to reassure patients that taking on the leadership of a troubled neighbouring trust won’t impact services in West Sussex.

The leadership team at Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (WSHFT), which runs Worthing Hospital and St Richard’s, will ‘buddy up’ with the inadequate Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust (BSUH) from Saturday (April 1).

This means the chairman, chief executive and executive directors of WSHFT are to take on the leadership of BSUH for a minimum of three years.

Marianne Griffiths, chief executive of WSHFT, said: “We’ve known from the outset that helping our neighbour is the right thing to do, but we have spent a lot of time over the last four months making sure it is an achievable thing to do, not just in terms of helping BSUH improve but doing so while continuing to build on the progress we have made at Western Sussex too.

“To be certain we can do that, we will be strengthening the leadership team within the trust and prioritising the three things we think will have the greatest influence on the future of our services – monitoring and maintaining our CQC standards, expanding our Patient First improvement programme and supporting the development of the Coastal West Sussex Accountable Care Organisation (ACO).”

The ‘buddying up’ scheme follows last year’s inspection of BSUH by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) which found it to be ‘inadequate’, and The Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton was placed in special measures. The trust also runs the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath, which was judged ‘requires improvement’.

Ms Griffiths said: “The challenges faced by staff at BSUH have been well documented and there are no easy solutions to them.

“However, I have been hugely impressed by the welcome and openness extended to us by everyone we have met in Brighton and Haywards Heath so far and I have seen enough examples of excellent care to feel that together we can bring about the improvements everyone wants to see.”

The executive team will aim to deliver a new A&E improvement plan at the Royal Sussex County Hospital, move the trust out of special measures, progress the ‘3Ts’ hospital redevelopment and build a new organisational culture ‘that can sustain improvement beyond the initial period of collaboration’.

Evelyn Barker, BSUH chief accountable officer will move into a new role as the organisation’s managing director, providing ‘continuity of leadership’.

She said: “Marianne and her team have been very clear that the improvements made by Western Sussex Hospitals over the last few years have been achieved by giving frontline staff the freedom to make the changes they know will make the biggest difference to patient care, and they are committed to creating a similar environment here.”

Anne Eden, executive managing director for NHS Improvement south, said: “This new arrangement is the culmination of much hard work by the leadership teams of both trusts, who have been determined to do the right thing for local patients. Working with Western Sussex Hospitals, and with ongoing support from NHS Improvement, I am confident that BSUH has the best possible support to make the necessary, sustainable improvements that will enable them to provide the quality of services patients expect from the NHS.”

The WSHFT Board approved the agreement between the two healthcare trusts after a full impact assessment satisfied its members that performance at the trust, which is one of only five acute hospital providers in England to hold the CQC’s highest-possible ‘outstanding’ rating, would not be compromised.