Troubled hospital puts its problems behind it
17:00 21 June 2012
Â© Archant 2012
The new chairman of the James Paget University Hospital (JPH) says the trust is on the road to health after a rocky ride which began in April 2011.
The hospital has been overhauled, with interim chief executive David Hill taking the reins from outgoing chief executive Wendy Slaney in April 2012.
And change has continued with chairman David Wright beginning his role on June 1.
Mr Wright – who was latterly a non-executive director at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (N&N) – replaces interim chairman, former EDP editor Peter Franzen.
He is realistic and states progress “is not going to be smooth and things are going to go wrong”, but insists a turbulent period is drawing to a close.
“My basic view is this is a good hospital providing good health care to people,” said Mr Wright.
“We’ve got some excellent departments, low mortality rates, low infection rates and people coming here have a really good chance of getting better and going out of here safely.
“There have been problems over the quality of care, as observed by the CQC, and we’ve had problems managing admissions and discharges of people.
“But I think we’ve got an interim chief executive in David Hill who can really move things forward very quickly.”
Inspectors from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) have made a number of repeat visits to the hospital since an initial failed inspection into dignity and nutrition standards in April 2011.
But warnings on these and service provision have been lifted, and the final warning – on patient care and welfare – could be lifted soon.
“A couple of weeks ago we had a further inspection on quality of care – that’s around bedside things like dignity,” said Mr Wright.
“I think that probably went well. We’ve one more inspection to go on record keeping.”
He said he was less optimistic about the latter inspection on records, but that people must bear in mind the annual workload of some 230,000 outpatients, 67,000 A&E cases, 29,000 inpatients – and this does not include day patients and day cases.
“These records have to be accurate and signed off,” he explained.
“It’s difficult when you’re rushing from call bell to call bell, making sure you sign off everything.
“But it’s important we do it as that’s the way you pass on information from one person to another.
“I wouldn’t mind betting the CQC will find some flaws, but I hope and trust that they will see a marked uplift in the quality of records.”
Mr Wright has previously served as director of social services at Norfolk County Council and chairman of the national care charity Crossroads.
He says part of his job will be to develop partnerships with councils and other health organisations, but added there was work to be done within the hospital.
“I want to make sure the improvements in quality are embedded and that we’ve got systems to see immediately if there’s a wobble so we can address it,” said Mr Wright.
“I want to see we’ve got robust plans to deal with the financial pressures of the health service, and to develop a strong strategy for developing this hospital and its site to provide the range of health services that the community needs.”
He added that, while the hospital must save £19.5m by 2014, “we have a better financial situation than most hospitals in this region so we don’t have to panic at the end of the year”.
“We can plan and we’re not in a crisis as many hospitals are,” he added.
While the chief executive’s job is to lead the hospital, the chairman must keep an eye on the wider health picture on the east coast and on how services fit together.
“This part of the world has an exceptionally fast-growing, ageing population so we need to plan for change in terms of acute care and care when they go home,” said Mr Wright.
“There are problems from lifestyle health issues – like overweight people who don’t have the time to exercise – that create all sorts of additional health problems.”
He feels the foundations are in place to take the hospital forward and said “patients like it, their families like it and it’s owned by the population of east Norfolk and Suffolk.”
But he knows improvement will be a gradual process.
“It’s not going to be smooth and things are going to go wrong,” he said.
“We’re providing our care through people, and they can’t be brilliant all of the time, but we have to support them and make sure they learn from their mistakes and do as much as we can to get the detail right.”
Mr Wright is in the process of compiling strategies, and has meetings lined up with health organisations across the region and coastal MPs, including Great Yarmouth MP Brandon Lewis to help shape the future of the region’s health care.