Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust has been urged to improve relationships between staff following a “significant increase” in disciplinary cases related to race discrimination.

This is one of the recommendations of the Care Quality Commission in its report which last week rated the trust as “requiring improvement”.

Inspectors described a “complex” history of race relations and equality at Brighton and Sussex, including a public admission in 2008 that some staff had faced discrimination.

Although no disciplinary cases or sanctions had been imposed on staff between 2004 and 2010, a number of cases “involving acts of discrimination” were recorded in 2010-11.

A drop in the number of complaints upheld in 2012-13 was followed in August last year by a significant increase in caseload, the CQC report said.

Inspectors said the trust must “ensure that relationships and behaviours between staff groups, irrespective of race and ethnicity, is addressed to promote safety, prevent any potential harm to patients and promote a positive working environment”.

While inspectors found the trust was developing a new racial equality programme, they discovered its black and minority ethnic network had “questions about the true commitment of the trust” to tackling their concerns.

However, inspectors praised its work on values and behaviours, and the openness shown to inspectors. The trust also performed strongly in critical care and in the care of dementia patients, inspectors said.

Royal Sussex County Hospital

The trust’s BME network had ‘questions about the true commitment of the trust’ to tackling their concerns

The CQC found accident and emergency services at Royal Sussex County Hospital were inadequate for responsiveness, suffered significant pressures and lacked sufficient physical space to deal with the number of patients that attended.

The trust had also missed the four hour A&E waiting time target repeatedly.

The CQC’s inspection report about the hospital pinpointed problems with staffing that “put patients at risk of their care needs not being appropriately met”.

The trust had invested in extra staff, not all posts were yet filled, it added.

Trust chief executive Matthew Kershaw said the CQC report was fair and balanced and that the trust accepted it needed to improve.

“The area of challenge which is the most complex and requires the most attention is the inadequate rating we were given for A&E responsiveness at Royal Sussex County Hospital,” he added.

“I want to be very clear that this is not because our emergency department is inadequate or failing, a clarification which the CQC absolutely endorsed,” Mr Kershaw said.

“What this rating reflects is that the whole system, which includes in-hospital care, the numbers and types of people who come into A&E and the discharge of people who no longer need to be in hospital, is not working consistently as well as it should.”