HUGE differences in the quality of healthcare for residents in different parts of Sussex have been exposed by a new report.

The NHS trust that runs hospitals in West Sussex is today celebrating after being rated outstanding by health inspectors.

Meanwhile the trust in charge of hospitals in East Sussex is struggling in special measures having been ranked “inadequate” last year.

Gary Palmer, regional manager for the GMB trade union, told The Argus the stark contrast was indicative of the difficulties facing the NHS.

He said: “I think the difference between East and West Sussex probably reflects an overall view of what’s taking place within the country at the moment and that is the range within the NHS and that comes down to the use of resources. It is a really good sign of the national picture.”

Inspectors from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) have today placed Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (WSH) as one of the best in the country, one of only three acute trusts ranked as outstanding.

The trust, which runs St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester, was praised in particular for its leadership, which encourages innovation and an open and honest working culture, leading to better patient care.

Meanwhile, East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs the Conquest in St Leonards and Eastbourne District General, appointed new chief executive Adrian Bull this month after Darren Grayson quit the role.

His departure followed a damning CQC report last year that said staff were afraid to speak out and many patients were often waited too long for treatment.

Mr Palmer said he hoped the two trusts could now work together to help the latter improve, adding: “I would hope that the channels were already open; I would expect so – it is the National Health Service.

Caroline Ansell, Conservative MP for Eastbourne, said she hoped East Sussex could achieve the same as West Sussex, adding: “There is a groundswell of support for a return of these services to Eastbourne, for example. West Sussex shows it can be done in 2016.”

A spokesman for NHS Improvement said: “We know that they are making good progress and are putting in place real improvements for patients but there is still a lot more to do. That is why the experience of other organisations within the NHS is so important and why we expect trusts to work with local health and care providers to make use of the best expertise available to them and put in place consistently high-quality services across traditional organisational boundaries.”


FROM waiting times to quality of care and even empathy from staff, patients turning up to Eastbourne and Hastings hospitals have had a very different time to their counterparts living on the other side of the county if the reports from the health watchdog are a good indication.

And while staff at St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester, Worthing Hospital and in Shoreham might have been happy to own up to their mistakes, their colleagues on the eastern side of the county appear to have been working under a different culture that encouraged them to do the opposite.

Leadership at East Sussex NHS Foundation Trust was certainly a huge part of the problem and hopes are now high for that gap to decrease under its new chief executive Dr Adrian Bull, an East Sussex resident and former chief executive of Queen Victoria Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, who took up the reins earlier this month.

Melanie Griffiths, the chief executive who has led Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust to its ranking today as one of the best in the country, put some of her trust’s success down to encouraging staff to speak up with ideas and speak up with concerns.

She and her team visited and took ideas from the leading Virginia Mason hospital in Seattle, Washington, US, and now get staff to do a daily huddle with their team to share problems and ideas, with the hospital acting on them.

She said: “We recognise that front-line staff have the best understanding of what needs to be done and to make things better. We really invest in them and give them the skills to make that happen.”

One small but important change that had come out of that, she added, was sending back patients who live alone with a welcome home pack containing some essentials.

A spokesman for East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust said it congratulated Western Sussex, also aspired to the "outstanding" rating and had already made improvements.

Under-staffing was flagged up as a problem in some area by inspectors. East Sussex says 30 new nurses from Europe and overseas and 19 newly qualified nurses have since started work, with a further 87 due to join and further interviews planned.

All healthcare assistant vacancies have now been filled and 12 radiographers recruited from overseas due to start working in June.

The staff vacancy rate reduced by 0.3 percentage points (from 8.2 per cent in November 2015 to 7.9 per cent in January 2016), the spokesman added, while staff appraisal training rates have increased.

As well as appointing an independent guardian to support staff who raise concerns, the trust has also improved its outpatients' appointments services.

The spokesman said: “Everyone in this organisation is focused on improving our services to ensure we offer safe, high quality care at all time as well as ensuring we treat each other with compassion, dignity and respect too.”