The beleaguered east Kent hospitals trust has failed to raise its overall performance according to the results of its latest inspection from the health watchdog.
Inspectors from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) rated the trust – which operates the hospitals at Canterbury, Ashford and Margate – as requiring improvement, the same rating as its last inspection.
During their visit to the trust they found dirty areas and broken equipment as well as identifying a shortage of staff in key areas.
Also of major concern was the discovery that the children’s emergency centres in Margate and Ashford were being closed at night, forcing sick and injured youngsters to be treated alongside adults.
The CQC report identified further challenges that the trust must tackle including waiting times for surgery and for emergency admissions and the impact high numbers of patients can have on its capacity to deliver services.
East Kent hospitals insists it is striving to address the issues identified in the report and will be spending £13.5 million to increase staffing and improve services ahead of the winter, historically a busy time for health providers.
However, the inspectors did find the trust performing well in certain areas. They rated it good for caring for patients with staff showing appropriate emotional support for patients.
They also saw how technology is used to improve the patient experience with people able to use phones to access information and obtain additional support and guidance about surgery before and after their operation.
There was also praise for the team which takes blood samples.
Trust chief executive Susan Acott said: “The CQC highlights further areas for improvement.
“These include improving safeguarding training of staff caring for children and young people and vulnerable adults, the levels of nurse staffing on surgical wards, referral to treatment times for surgical patients and capacity within our emergency departments and receiving wards.
“These are things we are already addressing as priorities. For example, by investing in extra operating theatres, hundreds of patients who would not normally be able to have their planned orthopaedic operation over the winter will see their operations go ahead this year.
“We are pressing ahead with much-needed investment in our hospital sites to make sure east Kent patients are served well in the period before long-term decisions about the future organisation of health services in the county are made and implemented.
“We have asked for national funding to extend the emergency departments at Margate and Ashford in the New Year by building new observation areas. This will create more space in the emergency departments and prevent patients needing to wait in open areas for a bed in extremely busy periods.
“We are recruiting additional nurses, doctors and consultants in our emergency departments, as well as paediatric nurses to provide 24/7 cover to care for children in the emergency department.
“We are all determined to continue to improve services for patients and resolve our challenges as quickly as possible.”
The trust is currently working on its five-year masterplan for reorganising healthcare across east Kent.