PERFORMANCE: Councillors in East Sussex have taken a unanimous vote of ‘no confidence’ in the leadership of East Sussex Healthcare Trust and have called on the chief executive to resign.

The vote took place at an East Sussex County Council health and overview scrutiny committee meeting last week, in response to a Care Quality Commission report which found the trust had a “disconnect” between senior management and staff, and where staff said they were afraid to speak out openly.

The trust was rated “inadequate” by the regulator in March following the inspection in September. The publication of the report was delayed for several months and the CQC has decided to reinspect the trust before making a decision on whether to place it in special measures. The second report is expected to be published in July.

East Sussex Hospital Trust

The CQC found that the East Sussex trust’s senior management were ‘disconnected’ from staff

Councillor Michael Wincott called for trust chief executive Darren Grayson – who attended the meeting with chair Stuart Welling – to resign.

He said: “You’re the captain of this ship which has hit the rocks and has started to sink, and I think the biggest morale boost you could give your staff is to say sorry and then offer your resignation.”

Mr Welling responded that if there was “any doubt” about how seriously the trust board takes the concerns then it was a “gross misunderstanding” of its position.

He added: “We are deeply concerned about the staff survey, and about some of the matters raised in the CQC report.

“We are not resigning… we always take the view that the leadership of the organisation has a job to do and it’s a difficult job and we are going to try to continue to deliver the changes required.”

Mr Grayson said the leadership team had never “hidden away from” the “perception of a bullying culture” at the trust. He added it was something the board has been tackling but “we would acknowledge there is still a long way to go”.

He said that whistleblower concerns raised during the September inspection were found to be “unsubstantiated or unfounded to the CQC’s satisfaction”.

Mr Grayson added that there was “a considerable amount of disappointment, anguish, disbelief and anger about the reports” from staff.

The CQC also said the trust lacked a vision for the future. He said the leadership team were “very clear” with the CQC “about our context”.

Mr Grayson added: “This is a very financially challenged health economy… it remains extremely unclear what the future of East Sussex is in that context… we are just about to set a major deficit budget in this organisation… there is not a five year vision for the organisation, that’s plain fact.”

The councillors’ motion read: “Whilst commending the care and quality of the staff, that East Sussex [health and overview scrutiny committee] expresses great concern at the findings of the CQC inspection, has no confidence in the chair and chief executive of the trust, calls on [the trust] to implement the improvement plan as a matter of urgency and expects [the trust] to give regular updates to ensure [committee] members are fully informed of the progress of that improvement plan.”