• East Sussex Healthcare Trust lifted out of quality special measures after CQC inspection
  • Trust reported a £57m deficit last financial year and NHSI will maintain financial special measures regime
  • Trust chief executive praised for being “ever present” by CQC inspectors

A hospital trust has been lifted out of quality special measures after a Care Quality Commission inspection saw it come close to a “good” rating.

But it has been told it must remain in financial special measures with NHS Improvement, which argued quality of care and “financial grip go hand in hand.”

East Sussex Healthcare Trust remained as “requires improvement” overall as not all services were re-inspected. But the CQC report praised many aspects of its care, adding that the “executive directors and the chief executive in particular were held in high esteem by staff.” Dr Adrian Bull, the chief executive, was “ever present” and knew people’s names, the report said.

Of the areas inspected, only the emergency department at Eastbourne District General Hospital was still rated as requires improvement with urgent and emergency care and surgery being described as outstanding for well led and medical services outstanding for caring. The trust had been rated as inadequate three years ago, but moved up to requires improvement 18 months ago.

NHS Improvement has confirmed the trust can leave quality special measures and praised its progress but Dr Kathy McLean, NHSI executive medical director and chief operating officer, said: “The trust must now drive major financial improvement and demonstrate its services are financially sustainable. There is strong evidence to show that high quality care and financial grip go hand in hand and the trust must ensure local efficiency plans are not achieved at the expense of the quality and safety of services.”

The trust had a deficit of £57.4m excluding sustainability and transformation funding last financial year, £20m more than its control total. NHSI is pressing the trust to reduce its deficit to £40m this year, but the trust has said only £48m is achievable.

Dr Bull said the trust had improved its position over the last two years and the underlying deficit had started to reduce but he expected it to take another three years to breakeven.

“We are putting in place the right foundations for sustained success [on quality],” he said. “I think the same about finances – but none of us can turn on a sixpence.

“I absolutely understand NHSI would like us to set a faster trajectory and we are still working to see if we can set an improved trajectory. But we want to be sure that we can deliver the plans that we set.

“I am delighted that the hard work and commitment of people across the organisation has been recognised by the CQC, with the services they inspected rated as mainly good or outstanding.”

He said the trust was aiming to be an outstanding organisation by 2020 adding the CQC’s report was evidence of progress towards that goal.