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West Suffolk Hospital staff quiz Steve Dunn after 'requires improvement' CQC rating

West Suffolk Hospital’s financial and performance challenges were noted but overshadowed by the trust’s CQC result in a subdued board meeting.

Steve Dunn faced questions at the monthly gathering last Friday (January 31) - just one day after the Bury St Edmunds hospital was rated as ‘requires improvement’.

This was the first time an NHS trust had been downgraded to that level from ‘outstanding’ and the chief executive started off by apologising.

Steve Dunn spoke of a disconnect between staff and Quince House at West Suffolk Hospital - where board meetings are held (William Mata)
Steve Dunn spoke of a disconnect between staff and Quince House at West Suffolk Hospital - where board meetings are held (William Mata)

In a highly critical report, the CQC (Care Quality Commission) found fault with the maternity, medical care and outpatients services.

But the meeting also highlighted other immediate issues. Dr Dunn’s chief executive report stated the financial position remained ‘challenging’ with a £7.3million deficit of this year to date, which is £5.8million worse than plan. This means the hospital is needing to deliver a cost improvement plan of £8.9million.

Read more: West Suffolk Hospital whistle-blower controversy: Government orders inquiry over trust's handling of the issue

Dr Dunn said routine ‘elective activity’ was suspended for two weeks in early January for staff to fully focus on the high demand.

“I would like to thank our staff who have responded so well as we have experienced sustained activity and operation pressures over the New Year and January,” he said.

No changes to the hospital's leadership team have been announced. Health secretary Matt Hancock, who doubles up as West Suffolk MP, has previously backed Dr Dunn.

Ann Radmore, regional director for NHS England has challenged the board to step up. She said: “It is right that West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust now takes action as identified by the CQC and we will continue to work closely with the trust and commissioners to address concerns, to ensure care is improved for patients now and in the future.

“We have commissioned an independent review to look into the circumstances surrounding a whistleblowing letter and further details will be set out shortly.”

Trust chairman Sheila Childerhouse led the board meeting, which was held in a larger room to accommodate staff members keen to find out what action would be taken.

She said: “We will be addressing these issues openly and transparently.

“We are working to improve, and you can track the progress on the website so you can hold us to account.”

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