New twist in Downham Market Health Centre saga

A former Norfolk health boss was one eight people whose actions over the running of a West Norfolk doctor's surgery were investigated, it was revealed today.

The revelation by Andrew Morgan, chief executive of NHS Norfolk and Waveney, came as he confirmed Sheila Adams O'Shea, a former chief executive of Norfolk Community Health and Care Trust, would no longer be an 'accountable officer' at the NHS after October.

An independent review into the running of the GP practice at the Downham Market Health Centre was launched last year after four 'serious incidents', the suspension of two GPs and the death of a vulnerable patient between March 2010 and March 2011.

The review revealed how hundreds of unchecked pathology results were discovered at the practice, which serves 2,500 patients, and criticised NHS Norfolk, NHS East of England, and Norfolk Community Health and Care (NCH&C).

An accountability review was then launched which first looked into the actions of 30 individuals before further investigations were completed on eight individuals, including Sheila Adams O'Shea whose yearly salary as the trust's chief executive was around �120,000,

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The practice on Paradise Road is now known as The Hollies and is run by Vida Healthcare. The surgery has seen a sharp rise in the number of returning patients with many praising the new management.

South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss met with Mr Morgan and Dr Ruth May, chief nurse of NHS East of England, along with patient representatives last Friday to discuss the outcomes of the latest review.

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Mr Morgan said Ms Adams O'Shea had stepped down from her role before the first review of the Downham Market practice was published.

He continued: 'She has been working out her notice with NCH&C elsewhere in the NHS and this comes to an end in September when she will cease to be an NCH&C employee. She is no longer a CEO or an accountable officer within the NHS.'

Referring to the other individuals whose actions were investigated, he then told Ms Truss: 'One very senior manager left in early 2011 at the end of his contract [and another] very senior manager retired from the NHS in January 2012.

'Of the remaining three very senior managers, one left the NHS in May 2010, one is leaving in the next few months and one remains in role after issues were addressed.

'The two other managers have moved to posts better suited to their capabilities. This includes one who has been moved to a lower graded post.'

Reacting to the accountability review, Ms Truss said: 'This has been a long and drawn out investigation but eventually decisive action has been taken.

'Serious failings occurred at the health centre prior to April 1, 2011 and I am concerned that if pressure had not been maintained by the patient group and relatives, no-one would have been held accountable for these failings.

'Both Andrew Morgan and Dr Ruth May have worked with me and the patient group to ensure there is transparency. I am also pleased that Dr Ruth May has said that the findings of the review will be used across NHS Midlands and East so that similar mistakes do not happen again.'

She added: 'However I have raised with the Department of Health my concerns about the way investigations are handled within the NHS and individual accountability.

'I would not want this situation to be repeated and I would not want the families of those effected to have to wait so long for action to be taken.'

Dan O'Connor, spokesman for the practice's public involvement group, said: 'Whilst I believe this outcome has been appropriate, what has been very disturbing throughout the two years I have dealt with the NHS over the health centre, is the continual - and well documented - reluctance of the NHS trusts and strategic health authority to provide information to us that should be in the public domain.

'This unnecessary culture of secrecy and opaqueness is highly damaging to the interests of patients and needs to be addressed urgently.'

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