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East Kent hospital trust has the worst death rate from coronavirus than any other in England

A HOSPITAL trust in Kent has the worst death rate from coronavirus of any NHS trust in England, alarmed health service campaigners said today.

The East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust (EKHUFT) recorded 10 per cent of the national total of deaths from the virus in the second week of July.

In the following week, up to July 21, 46 people died in hospital with coronavirus in England. Of those deaths, 11 were at the trust’s hospitals, Save Our NHS in Kent (Sonik) said.

One of the largest hospital trusts in the country, East Kent serves a population of about 695,000 at its five hospitals and community clinics. Since the pandemic began, at least 438 have died with Covid-19 there.

The trust figures, which stand in contrast to lower infection figures in the community, strongly suggest that there is a huge in-hospital transmission problem.

Sonik called an emergency online public meeting last night over the “alarmingly” high death rates.

Campaigner and general practitioner Coral Jones said: “This is only the latest in a long history of worrying problems with EKHUFT.

“This trust has a history of mismanagement going back a number of years — and we must do something about it as [a] matter of urgency. 

“If people are actually catching the virus by going into our hospitals, then this is alarming. This is literally a matter of life and death.”

“Infection rates in the community outside the hospitals are not especially high, so it has to be down to what’s going on in the hospitals,” she said.

Dr Jones said the problems were “only the latest in many damning reports” about the management of the trust and its “horrendous track record.” 

In 2014, inspectors found failures in patient safety and a “culture of bullying” that led to the trust being put into special measures. This was raised to “quality special measures” in 2017.

Last year, the Care Quality Commission took urgent action to protect children and young people cared for in the trust’s hospitals after they found they had “unsafe staffing levels.” 

And earlier this year, a scandal broke over the preventable deaths of babies in the trust’s maternity units at Margate and Ashford, which are still being investigated. 

Dr Jones said that the hospitals’ staff are “working their hearts out” for their patients, but are “being let down by gross mismanagement at the highest levels.”

The trust admitted a problem last week, calling in help from national specialists in infection control, testing all 9,000 staff and introducing overdue Covid prevention measures in the hospitals, which Dr Jones called “far, far too late.”

She accused the trust’s management of a “culture of denial” and a refusal to learn lessons for the future.

The trust had not responded to the Star’s request for comment at the time of publishing. 

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