Exclusive: Damning report blasts NHS board

Rotherham General Hospital. Picture: Ross Parry Agency
Rotherham General Hospital. Picture: Ross Parry Agency
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THE board at a Yorkshire hospital was branded “dysfunctional and ineffective” as it plunged into financial crisis, a damning report has revealed.

An investigation points to “inappropriate conduct” by some non-executive directors at Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust described as behaving “irascibly, indiscreetly, impulsively and surreptitiously”.

The inquiry by consultants Deloitte raises concerns over conflicts of interests involving some non-executive directors amid allegations of breaches of “commonly known and accepted corporate governance standards in public life”.

The Yorkshire Post can today also reveal further details of chaos surrounding an electronic patient record (EPR) system at the trust as a separate report drawn up last May heavily criticises managers for failing to carry out “any detailed financial management” on the programme which is costing taxpayers £10m more than its original £30m budget.

The report by internal auditors PwC said it appeared managers went ahead in part to be at the “forefront of clinical solution technology in the UK”.

Doctors were among those who raised concerns but “significant risks” in the system “appear not to have been identified or largely ignored, and we were informed that the project team were told in no uncertain terms to ‘make it work’.”

Latest figures show the trust is expected to be more than £3m in the red in 2013-14 in the wake of a crisis which triggered the intervention of regulator Monitor. There has been a major overhaul of the trust board, leading to the departure of a number of directors, but problems with the IT system are still being sorted out.

The Yorkshire Post has fought a lengthy battle for the disclosure of the reports although some key details are still being withheld by the new management team.

Last night Wentworth and Dearne MP John Healey said: “These reports reveal how those at the top of the hospital had lost sight of patients and were letting down frontline staff, as well as the extent to which the overhaul that has now taken place was needed. It is clear Monitor took its eye off the ball during the huge NHS reorganisation while Ministers were changing its job from monitoring how well hospitals were working to becoming the competition regulator for the new NHS market.”

Sue Cookman, of Unison, said the revelations were confirmation of concerns raised by hospital staff. “It was incredibly difficult working for a dysfunctional board who had lost sight of what was important but they did their their jobs despite that,” she said.

In a statement, the trust said significant changes had been made to board membership. “Concerns were also raised in the review regarding the trust’s policies and practices relating to director conduct and declarations of interest. Whilst the report concluded that the policies were broadly in line with those used in other NHS organisations, it was clear that the trust’s policy in relation to declarations of interest was not sufficiently clear,” it said.

A detailed recovery plan had been drawn up for the EPR project. “As a result of the full implementation of the project the trust is confident that the benefits to patients will be achieved,” it added.

Monitor said it had acted to identify problems at the trust. “We will take whatever action is necessary to ensure the trust is well-led, delivers value for money to the taxpayer and provides the best service possible for local people,” said a spokesman.

The Deloitte report does not identify individual non-executive directors (NEDs) when highlighting examples of questionable conduct. All six NEDs on the board in the period of the Deloitte report were asked to comment but last night none had.

Special report: The Chaos at crisis-hit Rotherham NHS Trust