A HOSPITAL Trust placed into Special Measures two months ago is paying a private company £45,000 to help with its recovery plan for five weeks, The Argus can reveal.

The East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust Board announced the trust has decided to employ a business from the private sector to support ‘various projects’ now the trust has been placed in special measures by the Government.

Acting Chief Executive Richard Sunley explained that it had been felt necessary to bring in a firm of experts from the private sector to boost the capacity of its staff at a difficult time.

But when Argus reporter Peter Lindsey asked in their public meeting this week how much the trust was paying the private company, Mr Sunley twice flatly refused to answer.

He simply said that the correct procedure had been followed.

At the meeting Mr Lindsey said: "The trust is funded by the people of East Sussex – the taxpayers – and they have a right to know when a public sector provider turns to the private sector.

"This is a classic example of the lack of openness and transparency which has led to the hospital going into special measures."

Mr Sunley eventually turned to the chairman of the meeting and said it was time to move on, refusing to disclose the sum.

The Argus put in another request at 4pm on Wednesday and this time did get a positive reply.

We were told that the company is Prederi, based in London, and they are being paid £9,000 per week for a five-week period for project and programme management support around the Trust’s Quality Improvement Plan.

‘The Improvement Director is exploring with the Trust Development Authority if the cost of this can be offset against Special Measures funding,’ added a spokesman for the Trust.

Inspectors from the Care Quality Commission had found poor staff morale and difficult cultures existing around the trust, which runs the DGH at Eastbourne and Conquest Hospital at Hastings.

The special measures status is implemented when there are concerns about the quality of care that hospitals are delivering. Special measures are designed to offer the trusts the support they need to improve, as well as giving the public the ability to hold them to account.