Special measures recommendation for hospitals trust
An NHS trust that runs three Kent hospitals should be placed in special measures, the chief inspector of hospitals has recommended.
It follows inspections at William Harvey in Ashford; Kent and Canterbury in Canterbury and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother (QEQM) in Margate.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) rated two hospitals as inadequate and one, the QEQM, as requiring improvement.
East Kent NHS trust said it was already addressing many of the criticisms.
Inspectors who visited the three hospitals in March found there was a "worrying disconnect" between those running the university foundation trust and frontline staff, with a recent staff survey flagging up bullying and harassment.
Risks to patients were not always identified and where they were, were not always acted on by the trust.
A number of clinical services were poorly led and there were concerns about staffing levels, especially in A&E, children's care and at night.
Poorly maintained buildings and equipment were also identified.
"It is a lack of effective leadership, alongside care failings across the majority of services we inspected, which has led me to recommend to the foundation trust regulator Monitor that the trust be placed in special measures," said chief inspector of hospitals Sir Mike Richards.
"This will allow the trust to receive the additional support I believe it needs."
East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust said it had been asked some very challenging questions by the commission, but that the caring nature of the staff had been praised.
"Much of what is in the report we have already recognised," claimed chief executive Stuart Bain.
"We have invested an additional £2.9m to recruit 69 nurses. We have also recently appointed an additional four general surgeons and will be recruiting a further three."
He said the appointments system and outpatient services were being improved and £28m was being spent on facilities, including a new hospital in Dover.
A number of MPs have accused the CQC of scaremongering.
Sir Roger Gale, MP for Thanet North, said the report was "disproportionate and irresponsible" and would "cause unnecessary public alarm".
"I think the CQC is inadequate and ought to be looking at itself," he said.
However, Julie Pearce, the chief nurse and deputy chief executive of East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation, said she generally welcomed the inspection.
"We have an ambition to make this as positive as possible and turn this around as quickly as we can," she said.