Yet sadly it comes as no real surprise, since I’m frequently contacted by local residents experiencing delays accessing treatment, or writing to me about the shocking experience they, or a loved one, has had when they’ve attended the Accident and Emergency department at the hospital. Members of NHS staff, those at the frontline of patient care, have also confided in me about the extent of the problems at the Trust, and just how deep they run. They range from serious worries about staff ratios on wards, to concerns - particularly from BME staff - about a culture of bullying and discrimination.
These are issues I’ve repeatedly taken up with the Chief Executives, yet despite apparent reassurances about better escalation processes being rolled out in A&E, greater staff recruitment, and changes to how the Board operates, it’s clear that major problems persist - and worse, that things have spiralled further downwards.
In the last four years there have been four different Chief Executives at Brighton and Sussex University NHS Hospitals Trust (BSUH). In addition to significant financial pressures the NHS faces because of Central Government cuts, it’s clear that this lack of stability hasn’t helped, and that failing leadership has let down not just patients but staff themselves - the vast majority of whom work incredibly hard in very difficult circumstances. The fact that the hospital building itself is crumbling and unfit for purpose exacerbates these problems - it's of little comfort to patients today to know that a new building is planned for the future.
I have this week spoken again to interim Chief Executive Gillian Fairfield, who has been brought in because of her experience in turning around failing Trusts, and she has emphasised her determination to make far-reaching changes. There have already been significant improvements since her arrival, including a better waiting space in the Emergency Department, and major changes to the membership of the Board, but clearly there is a long way to go, and her tenure at the Trust is again only short-term.
I’m contacting the other MPs in Brighton and Hove to see whether they would support the idea of a round table meeting with key health professionals in the city, in order to ensure rapid improvements are made, and that patient safety is not compromised when accessing NHS treatment.
I will continue to fight for a fair NHS, and to maintain calls for a reversal of the creeping marketisation sweeping across our health services in Parliament. Locally, I will do all I can to help bring the relevant health professionals and politicians together, to try to unpick some of the colossal issues highlighted in the CQC report, to rebuild relations between the Board and staff, and redouble efforts to achieve a common sense of purpose and direction.