Running a private hospital brings its own set of challenges. Ismail Mulla spoke to John Lofthouse on how he keeps things running smoothly.
THE director of a private hospital faces many challenges. Apart from having to adapt to changes in medicine and technology, you must also ensure the patients’ needs are met.
For John Lofthouse, hospital director at Nuffield Health Leeds Hospital, the challenges are even greater, due to the complexity of the work it carries out and the hospital’s sheer size.
Nuffield in Leeds employs 350 staff, has a turnover of £30m a year and has 88 beds.
Mr Lofthouse said: “This isn’t a bog standard private hospital. Your average private hospital probably has about 30 beds.
“Not only are we bigger but we do complex work that other private hospitals don’t engage with, on the whole. For example we undertake 300 open heart surgeries a year and 500 spinal operations.”
Technology is “vitally important” explains Mr Lofthouse, with the hospital crammed full of the latest technology.
But with tech comes expenditure and the need for investment.
Nuffield Hospital, which is 13 years old has just invested £2.6m in new state-of-the-art CT and MRI scanners.
Mr Lofthouse says: “Investment is never-ending in any hospital to be perfectly honest.
“The CT scanner, for example, will be the only one in West Yorkshire which has the capability of scanning a patient’s heart within one single heartbeat.
“An entire scan of the heart in a heartbeat means that you get much better quality images because it catches the heart at a point where it’s not moving.”
Mr Lofthouse sees the length of stay at hospitals coming down as medicine and technology advances. He points to examples of day case hip replacement operations in America.
The challenge for Nuffield is keeping its beds occupied. Mr Lofthouse said: “The private healthcare sector hasn’t really grown in the last 10 years because ultimately private healthcare expenditure is a discretionary spend.
“People have a very obvious alternative in the National Health Service which costs them nothing – your competitor is free and freely available. Against that backdrop the challenge is keeping your beds occupied.”
Leeds is a particularly competitive area when it comes to private healthcare, with the Spire Hospital and Yorkshire Clinic, which is owned by Ramsay Health Care.
There is also the low level of private health insurance in the region that Nuffield is encountered with.
“Yorkshire doesn’t have a particularly high level of private health insurance,” says Mr Lofthouse.
But the location does offer benefits to Nuffield in the form of medical innovation that is taking place in the region. There is also the Leeds Teaching Hospital Trust.
Mr Lofthouse said: “Our location in the centre of Leeds right next to Leeds Teaching Hospital Trust is good in that for the surgeons and physicians, who work next door, it’s a very easy, short walk for them to get here and that’s important.
“It’s important that these people who drive a lot of our business have easy access and they find it convenient.”
Before joining Nuffield over 18 months ago, Mr Lofthouse was chief executive at King Edward VII Hospital for five years. It was there that he faced the most testing time of his career.
Jacintha Saldanha, a nurse at the hospital, was tricked into allowing access to information, about the Duchess of Cambridge, by two Australian DJs.
The Duchess was receiving treatment for her pregnancy in December 2012 at the hospital. Following the incident Ms Saldanha took her own life.
Mr Lofthouse said: “I can honestly say that in my 35 years of managing hospitals that was the most testing time.” He said that there was a feeling of shock following Ms Saldanha’s suicide.
“It’s a small hospital. Everybody on the staff there knew each other very well and everybody knew Jacintha, she was a very popular individual,” says Mr Lofthouse.
“Actually managing the emotions within the hospital was in itself a major exercise because we had a hospital full of patients. The care had to go on and simultaneous to that there were a lot of grieving staff, and the world’s media was camped on the doorstep.”
The greatest lesson Mr Lofthouse takes from the whole episode is the importance of having a strong team around him.
He said: “It’s when you have an unexpected crisis of any sort that you realise the value of having team members who are capable, competent, remain calm and deal with the crisis. It really came home at that really difficult time.”
Nuffield is unusual in that it is a private healthcare organisation that is run as a charity with the profits being put back into the business.
In addition to the 31 hospitals it has nationwide, Nuffield also has 78 gyms with five of them in Leeds and the surrounding area.
Mr Lofthouse says: “In those gyms, apart from them being gyms in the traditional sense with swimming pools and the like, there are physiotherapists and there are physiologists providing health assessments.”
Looking to the future Mr Lofthouse wants Nuffield to become the primary choice for anyone considering private healthcare.
He added: “I think this hospital is moving in the right direction on a whole number of fronts.
“Not least we’re generating more of a surplus than we were which means that it’s easier for us to get capital investment to improve the hospital and our facilities.”
Looking ahead to his own future, Mr Lofthouse sees himself continuing at Nuffield. He says: “I wouldn’t want to work for any other organisation.”
John Lofthouse factfile
Title: Hospital director at Nuffield Health Hospital
Date of birth: July 29, 1957
First Job: NHS Management trainee scheme
Favourite Holiday: Turkey
Last Book Read: Gray Mountain by John Grisham
Favourite Film: Crimson Tide
Favourite Song: Skylark by Hoagy Carmichael
Car Driven: Range Rover Sport
Thing most proud of: Being in a job that’s made a difference to people’s lives
Education: Blackpool Grammar School, Sheffield University, University of Hull