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It’s been a bad week for East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust.

On Monday, HSJ reported that it had only implemented two out of 23 recommendations from a four-year-old royal college review of its maternity services. On Tuesday, the Care Quality Commission released a report into its two A&Es which highlighted infection control and staffing issues. And yesterday, HSJ revealed it has had nearly twice the number of covid deaths as any other trust in the 30 days to 13 July.

EKHUFT had 72 deaths in that period, compared with 38 at Pennine Acute Trust and 34 at University Hospitals of Leicester Trust – which is, of course, sited in an infection hotspot. In the seven days to yesterday, things seem to have only got worse, with EKHUFT accounting for 11.7 per cent of national in hospital deaths.

The trust is pointing to an outbreak in Ashford, one of the main towns in its catchment area, and a population which is older with more co-morbidities than the average. But that seems unlikely to fully explain its outlier status.

HSJ has asked NHS England’s regional office and the Kent and Medway clinical commissioning group and sustainability and transformation partnership what they are doing to support the trust: it has yet to get an answer.

Meanwhile, the news has got even worse for EKHUFT. It now has 9 per cent of the weekly in hospital deaths up to 9 July and more than twice the deaths over 30 days of the next trust.

All for one

NHS bosses are planning to introduce a “111 first” model for accident and emergency before the winter.

The new systems, aiming to prevent overcrowding in A&Es ahead of a second covid wave, are being trialled in Portsmouth and Cornwall and set to be tried in the North East soon.

Under the plans, NHS 111 acts as a “triage point” so people needing urgent treatment can “book” their care. Some would still go to A&Es, but others may be able to instead be sent to urgent treatment centres, primary care or specialist-staffed “hot clinics”.

People who turn up to A&Es unannounced would still be treated, but it is hoped the public would see “111 first” as the most convenient way of accessing urgent care.