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One of the largest hospital trusts in England is to be put into a failure regime because of "serious failures'' in patient safety
East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust is to be put into special measures by health regulator Monitor after experts identified issues with safety and leadership.
Inspectors for the Care Quality Commission (CQC) deemed that the trust, which serves a population of more than 750,000 across five different hospitals, was "inadequate'' in August.
Concerns were raised about a culture of bullying at the organisation and inspectors identified staff shortages in A&E, children's care and at night.
Risks to patients were not always identified and when they were, not consistently acted upon, the inspectors said - and incidents involving patient safety were not always identified and reported.
They noted a "worrying disconnect'' between the trust's leaders and frontline staff - and a number of clinical services were "poorly led''.
The inspection team also noticed that in a number of areas around the trust, the buildings and equipment were "poorly maintained''.
Monitor said an improvement director will be appointed at the trust to provide support and to ensure it is making progress. The trust has also been tasked with publishing monthly updates on how it is improving services.
"The trust needs to urgently improve the safety of care for patients, and strengthen its management to better support frontline staff,'' said Paul Streat, regional director at Monitor.
"By putting the trust into special measures we can ensure they turn things around quickly.
"Senior leaders need to listen to and work with all staff to understand and tackle problems on their wards. We will help the trust to do this, and to make lasting improvements to the services that people in East Kent rely on.''
In a statement, the Trust's Chief Executive Stuart Bain said the it would work with the regulator as well as staff and its health partners to make improvements.
He said: "We had already recognised some areas for improvement. For example we are investing an additional £2.9 million to recruit 69 nurses where shortages exist (55 of these have been recruited already).
"We have also recently appointed an additional four general surgeons and will be recruiting a further three surgeons very shortly.
"In addition we identified the need to improve our appointment system some time ago and have just completed a public consultation on our outpatient services that will allow us to make improvements to the services we offer patients. New appointment booking systems, more flexible appointments, and an investment of £28 million in improved facilities including a new hospital in Dover will start to address these issues.
"The Trust is committed to working with staff and health partners to produce an action plan to address the issues raised by the CQC and Monitor and to see us removed from special measures as soon as possible."