HEALTH chiefs have claimed “significant progress” is being made at 14 under-fire NHS trusts which have been plunged into special measures.
The 14, including the Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust, have been put under intense scrutiny by regulators after concerns were raised about standards including higher-than-expected death rates.
Yesterday, top officials said further work was still required but they were delivering “real improvements for patients”.
The progress report came as it was announced the former boss of Marks & Spencer, Sir Stuart Rose, will advise the Government on how to turn around failing hospitals. He will work on attracting and retaining top leaders to transform the culture of under-performing hospitals, with particular attention on trusts in special measures.
Official figures indicate that of 244 measures ordered at the 14 trusts, a third have been delivered and a further 52 per cent are on track to be completed within expected deadlines.
Among particular concerns raised by inspectors have been staff shortages. So far nearly 650 more nurses and support staff and more than 130 extra doctors have been appointed at the 14 trusts. At the Northern Lincolnshire trust, which runs hospitals in Goole, Scunthorpe and Grimsby, nurses have been recruited from Portugal and Spain.
David Bennett, chief executive of regulator Monitor, said: “Although there is still a way to go, trusts in special measures are using the additional support we’re giving them to deliver real improvements for patients.
“The challenge now is to see this process completed so that these hospitals are consistently delivering good care.”
Karen Jackson, chief executive at the Northern Lincolnshire trust, said she was pleased its improvements had been recognised.
“I want to take this opportunity to recognise the efforts and determination of all our staff but acknowledge that there is still work to do,” she added.
Among criticisms of the trust highlighted last July were higher-than-expected death rates among patients but these have now been reduced and are within the expected range. There were complaints about a lack of basic care by staff at the Diana Princess of Wales Hospital in Grimsby including failing to help patients drink and eat enough.
At A&E in Scunthorpe, inspectors found patients being cared for by ambulance staff because casualty and a medical assessment unit were full, while at Grimsby triage was being carried out by a receptionist.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Sir Stuart would examine ways to recruit talent from inside and outside the NHS and make leaders more visible to patients and staff.
He said the difference between good and bad care often lay in leadership and Sir Stuart would advise him “on how we can attract and retain the brightest and best managers into the NHS so we transform the culture in under-performing hospitals”.
A separate review will look at how the NHS can make better use of its existing best leaders – so-called “superheads”.
“We can do more to exploit the extraordinary leadership in our best hospitals by making it easy for NHS superheads to take over struggling organisations,” said Mr Hunt.
Sir Stuart, who left M&S in 2010 and is chairman of Ocado, will particularly look at the problems facing the 14 NHS trusts in special measures.
Sir Stuart, who will not be paid, said: “Clearly the NHS is a very different institution from M&S, but leadership, motivating staff and creating a culture where people are empowered to do things differently are crucial to the success of any organisation, and I’m looking forward to helping in any way I can.”