NHS trust likened to Titanic as directors jump ship

PCT chairman Kevin McAleese admits assurances need to be given
PCT chairman Kevin McAleese admits assurances need to be given
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A FINANCIALLY stricken health trust has been accused of “going down like the Titanic” after it emerged three senior directors will be leaving within a matter of weeks as the organisation battles to cope with a multi-million pound black hole.

The NHS North Yorkshire and York primary care trust (PCT) has confirmed that three members of its board, including the deputy chief executive Sue Metcalfe, will be leaving ahead of a massive overhaul of health provision in the county from the start of April next year.

The revelations have provoked fears that there will not be a co-ordinated transition to the new regime when the Government’s massive restructuring of the NHS kicks in from next spring.

The chairman of North Yorkshire County Council’s influential scrutiny of health committee, Coun Jim Clark, claimed that the exodus of senior staff could accentuate the already perilous financial situation.

Coun Clark, who has previously warned that the PCT’s deficit could escalate to as much as £50m by the end of the financial year, said: “It is extremely concerning especially as it is so important that the transition to a new health regime is done as smoothly as possible.

“What is needed is a firm hand on the tiller but now it looks as though the chairman of the trust is like the captain of the Titanic. There is a danger the trust will have a similar fate seeing as most of his crew are already heading to the lifeboats. We worry about there being too many managers in the NHS, but at the moment in North Yorkshire there appears to be too few.”

All three departing directors have secured new roles outside of North Yorkshire, with Ms Metcalfe, who is on a salary of about £100,000-a-year, due to become the director of commissioning at Durham, Darlington and Tees Local Area Team.

Dr David Geddes, who earns an annual salary of about £115,000 as the health trust’s director of primary care, is departing to become the national head of Primary Care Commissioning with the NHS Commissioning Board’s Operations Directorate.

The PCT’s director of nursing, Julie Bolus, who is on a six-month contract worth about £60,000, is leaving after being appointed to the same role for the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Local Area Team.

In a statement he is due to present to the trust’s board on Tuesday, the PCT’s chairman, Kevin McAleese, has admitted assurances need to be given by chief executive Christopher Long about “how continuity will be maintained” before the PCT is axed in the spring. He claimed that it is “particularly pressing” in relation to the director of nursing role, which is a statutory requirement.

A PCT spokesman confirmed the work of the outgoing directors will be done by other senior NHS bureaucrats, although he was adamant that they had not been landed with a second job on top of their existing work.

He added that talks were continuing about “transition arrangements” to ensure measures are in place when the PCT is abolished on March 31 next year.

The massive overhaul of the NHS, which gives GPs charge of spending worth around £70 billion nationwide, will lead to the end of regional health authorities and primary care trusts next March. The PCT in North Yorkshire will be disbanded with five new GP-led clinical commissioning groups taking over from April.

Since North Yorkshire’s PCT was established in October 2006, NHS services in the county have relied on bailouts totalling more than £100m from the regional health authority.

But Mr Long confirmed in the summer that the authority’s demise means the end of the financial lifeline. He also admitted the trust will need a “dose of good luck” to ensure its £19m deficit does not grow, with savings of £22.5m to its £1.25bn budget needed.

The Yorkshire Post yesterday revealed details of a long list of proposals for swingeing health cuts in North Yorkshire in the hope of driving down the soaring cost of the NHS in the county, which is being placed under intense pressure by the ageing population.

Hundreds of hospital beds face the axe forcing patients to travel miles for essential treatment in the biggest-ever shake-up of NHS care in the region, while community hospitals and minor injury units could be axed or radically re-shaped. Services at Scarborough’s hospital could be severely curtailed.