That hard-earned reputation has now received the ultimate recognition – the organisation has been named as the first acute Trust in Sussex to be awarded Foundation Trust status.
Becoming an FT has grown increasingly hard in recent years as the standards demanded for approval have grown more stringent – across the country only one other acute Trust has been granted the elite ‘FT status’ in the last 14 months.
The formal change of status will take place on 1 July, the culmination of a three-year process to demonstrate to both Monitor (the independent regulator of FTs) and the Department of Health that the Trust is worthy of being given new freedoms.
Foundation Trusts enjoy greater independence from Whitehall control, are allowed the freedom to retain and invest any financial surpluses into local patient services, and are run more democratically, with the direct involvement of people living in West Sussex and the surrounding areas.
Marianne Griffiths, Trust Chief Executive, said: “I have always known that the staff in our hospitals strive to give their patients the very best possible care, and now this award shows everyone just how good they are.
“Becoming a Foundation Trust today is extraordinarily hard, and so I hope that local people can take comfort – and pride – from the fact that their hospital services have been recognised as among the very best.
“For the last three years there has been a rigorous examination of every single aspect of the work our staff do, and Monitor has concluded that our services are excellent, they are safe, they are efficient and they are sustainable. It is the biggest vote of confidence we could receive.”
Qualifying to become a Foundation Trusts used to be largely a matter of demonstrating financial stability. That still matters, but it is now essential to demonstrate that staff are delivering excellent clinical care, day in day out.
Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust – which runs St Richard’s, Worthing and Southlands hospitals – has consistently been rated among the best-performing NHS organisations for the last two years, and it is that strong and enduring track record which has prompted Monitor to grant the Trust FT status.
The Trust was only formed in April 2009, bringing together two Trusts which had run up debts, and which faced an uncertain future. Since then more nurses have been employed, new facilities have been built, and services have been overhauled.
The result is steadily improving performance, including:
· Waiting time targets are consistently hit
· Current A&E performance is among the top five nationally
· Key safety measures such as patient falls, pressure sores, and levels of complaints all compare well with national averages
· Debts have been repaid at the rate of £5m a year
Trust Chairman Mike Viggers said: “It is a major achievement to become a Foundation Trust, but even more so when you think where this Trust was just four years ago – there was the real prospect that either Worthing or St Richard’s hospital would be downgraded, and the financial situation was really tough.
“The staff have been fantastic. Thanks to them we have come through the upheaval of merger, continually improved patient care, and made services safer even at times of great pressure. Gaining Foundation Trust status shows local people just how good this Trust is, but I hope our staff also see it as well-deserved recognition for their skill and commitment.”