• Western Sussex Hospitals FT retains “outstanding” rating
  • Achieved despite Dame Marianne Griffiths also leading BSUH
  • Says she sees “no reason” why Brighton and Sussex cannot achieve the same

Western Sussex Hospitals Foundation Trust has become the first non-specialist trust to be rated “outstanding” in all five Care Quality Commission domains.

The latest CQC report means the trust has not only retained its overall “outstanding” rating from its December 2015 inspection, but also improved its rating in the safe domain from “good” and in the responsiveness domain from “requires improvement”. The trust was also rated “outstanding” for critical care, improving from “requires improvement”. It was also rated outstanding for use of resources.

The trust achieved the rating despite chief executive Dame Marianne Griffiths running both it and Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust for the past two and a half years, which had initially taken her away from Western Sussex for three days a week and has also involved senior staff spending significant amounts of time at Brighton. 

In an interview with HSJ, Dame Marianne said she sees “no reason” why BSUH cannot achieve the same rating. BSUH is rated “good” after two years as “inadequate”.

She said: “I know people will think I am bonkers but I am hopeful Brighton will be outstanding as well.”

Building up leadership

Dame Marianne added, when the board decided to take on the running of BSUH in 2017, the key concern was that Western Sussex should not be adversely affected. However, the depth of leadership in the organisation meant that it has been able to improve.

“We have built up people who we knew we could trust if we were not here every day,” she said. “We have always invested in developing our staff, and given them the tools and the framework.”

She has now reduced the time she spends at Brighton to two days a week, while deputy chief executive and chief medical officer George Findlay spends three days there. Last week, the two trusts confirmed they wanted to continue as a group when the three-year management contract comes to an end. 

‘Exceptional compassion’ 

The latest report into Western Sussex said staff cared for patients with “exceptional compassion”, detailing how one staff member drove round local kennels in their own time after a seriously ill patient became concerned about what was happening to their dog. They managed to track the dog down and returned to the hospital with photos for the patient to see before they died.

In the few areas where it was found to perform worse than average on this measure, there was often a specific reason — such as having chosen to invest in extra cleaners as an infection control measure.

The report also acknowledged the challenges the trust faced around recruitment and the work it did to ensure safe staffing levels.

The CQC’s chief inspector of hospitals Ted Baker said: “Western Sussex Hospitals FT has taken to heart our original inspection report and built on it — not just in those areas where improvements were required, but in their stronger areas too and doing this while supporting another local NHS trust.”

Dame Marianne added: “For staff to surpass the‘outstanding’ results we achieved from our last inspection four years ago is remarkable in its own right — but to do so in the context of us now seeing 55 more people in [accident and emergency] every day, 4,200 more people in outpatients every month, and 5,000 more inpatients each year, is frankly heroic.”

As well as being the second trust ever and first acute trust to get an “outstanding” rating across all five domains, it is also the first hospital trust to get an “oustanding” for safety.

The Royal Papworth Hospital FT, a specialist, became the first trust to get a clean sweep of outstanding ratings in a report released last week.

HSJ Provider Summit

The HSJ Provider Summit, taking place at the Crowne Plaza, Stratford-upon-Avon from 22-23 April 2020, unites 120+ board members from provider trusts across the country with those shaping national policy, to share best-in-class initiatives in delivering cost-effective and high-quality care for their local populations.

Held under the Chatham House Rule, attendees will co-develop solutions to their local challenges with colleagues from across the country. The summit is free to attend for board-level NHS leaders.