Health trust on the mend, says under-fire chief

THE chief executive of a failing hospital trust has challenged inspectors to see the progress it is making – and said she hopes it will be out of “special measures” next year.

Northern Lincolnshire and Goole Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust was placed on a Government blacklist after the Keogh Review of 14 trusts with higher-than-expected death rates found a range of other failings.

This resulted in three conditions being placed on its licence – delivery of the Keogh action plan, a review of its quality governance framework, and a review of its clinical leadership.

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Managers are providing monthly updates to regulator Monitor, and chief executive Karen Jackson said she would welcome a further visit by inspectors from the review team led by NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh.

“I would like the Keogh team to come back and do a mid-year school report on us in January or February, just so we can assure everybody we are going in the right direction,” Mrs Jackson said.

“If that happens and we can prove that I’m sure the regulator will be pleased.

“But I’m sure Monitor won’t remove the conditions on the licence until they are happy we have done everything.

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“I’m hoping it will be before the end of next year (coming out).”

She added: “I want to be able to demonstrate progress and assure patients, the public and staff that all the hard work they are doing is making an impression.”

Mrs Jackson was speaking as new figures were released which show death rates at the trust’s three hospitals, in Goole, Grimsby, and Scunthorpe, had fallen within the “expected” range for the first time since July 2011.

She said: “I’m really pleased for the patients because how this trust has been portrayed is that it’s not safe, and that’s not the truth of the matter.

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“If you have a mortality indicator which shows you as an outlier it’s a smoke signal, but that’s not to say you’ve got people being mistreated or not cared for well.”

Mrs Jackson said staff morale had suffered as a result of the plunge into special measures, but there was now a clear determination to restore the trust’s reputation.

“To start with it really hit morale quite hard, and it would because this is the quality of care they are giving being criticised,” she said.

“What I have noticed is they are really galvanised now. They are determined not to be in this place because they know the care they give is good and as far as I can see don’t want their organisation, and them personally in some instances, being targeted with being a failing organisation.”

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Mrs Jackson also spoke candidly about the impact on her of the row over her pay, having faced calls to resign after it was revealed her salary had increased by £25,000 to £170,000.

“It was very hurtful because it was questioning my professional integrity,” she said.

“I found that very difficult to deal with because I’m very committed to this organisation and to have your integrity questioned in that way is really quite hard.”

She said she had thought about quitting – for a matter of “minutes” – but had been buoyed by the support she had received, including an open letter from 14 senior clinicians who said it would be “disastrous” for the trust if she left.

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“While ever they have confidence in me and trust me to do this job I’m staying to do it,” she said.

The chief executive described her salary as an “extraordinary amount of money”, but said the job carried an equal measure of responsibility and pressure, and that as the trust’s “accountable officer” she could be removed at a moment’s notice.

She said: “My dad was a steelworker, an engineer, and my mum worked on reception in the steelworks. My husband is a policeman.

“I understand it’s an extraordinary amount of money. I don’t come from a background of people who earn this kind of money.”