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Hospital Trust Chief Exec Resigns

Chris Satori

Tony HalsallFollowing on from last month's warnings by Health watchdog agencies over failings at the 'red-rated'  University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust (UHMBT) (see previous article), the Trust's Chief Executive Tony Halsall has now resigned.

Mr Halsall's departure follows  Trust Chair Professor Eddie Kane's resignation in December 2011,  five months before his contract was due to expire.  In February the independent regulator Monitor intervened in the running of the hospital trust, bringing in an interim Chair, Sir David Henshaw, from Alder Hey hospital in Liverpool. The Trust's deputy chief executive and director of finance, Tim Bennett, will act as CE until Sir David appoints an Interim Chief Executive.

Having joined the NHS as a nurse in 1980, Mr Halsall had held various senior management posts before being appointed Chief Executive at University Hospitals of Morecamb Bay NHS Trust in 2007. It became a Foundation Trust in 2010. He also led Morecambe Bay to Foundation Trust status in 2010.  However a series of deaths in 2008 at the mother & baby unit at Furness General Hospital, in Barrow, Cumbria, has led to an ongoing police investigation.  It also became apparent that the methods used to compile statistics on patient outcomes at Furness General had led to a number of fatalities involving clinical error at the unit being left out of the figures.

A failed inspection in December 2011 let to health regulators the Care Quality Commission (CQC)  issuing a warning over unacceptable standards at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary's A & E Department. (See previous article).

As a result, changes are now being made at the RLI, with the day surgery ward being changed to a medical ward to immediately provide an additional 34 medical beds. Also, the Trust has announced that a new mobile operating unit is being brought in:

"To support the extra medical beds additional senior medical staff, and appropriately trained and skilled nurses, will be in place to ensure safe medical cover and decision-making to support the Medical Assessment Unit, the short stay wards, Emergency Department and the inpatient wards.
"The introduction of the mobile unit will give us valuable extra capacity to ensure there are enough beds available for emergency patients.  In the short term I regret that we will also need to postpone some non-urgent operations."We have recognised that there is a need to make improvements to emergency care at the RLI to improve patient experience and reduce waiting times.
"Work is starting on a £1.5 million investment in these services and we also brought an external expert in towards the end of last year to work with staff on plans that will provide a longer term solution to managing emergency care. We are also working closely with our commissioners to ensure our longer term plans are in the best interests of our patients."

Work is also underway to move acute stroke patients from Medical Unit 2 to a designated stroke unit.

Sir David HenshawIn an update on progress released on 1 March Sir David explained that the trust had now set up a Programme Management Office (PMO) which  'quality assures the project plans, the milestones to delivery and outcomes of all projects.  It reports to a Programme Board and through that to the Board of Directors.'  Read his full statement here.

One of the PMO's first projects is a Mortality Review, involving an overhaul of the data collection system in partnership with the NW Quality Alliance and CHKS.

On 6 March, in a Trust statement on the Care Quality Commission warning notices, Sir David went on to say;
"A considerable amount of work is already underway and we are developing a comprehensive recovery plan for the Trust and when this is complete I look forward to discussing it with local people, our staff and other stakeholders.
“In their on-going investigation the CQC has made us aware of a number of additional problems including staff shortages and other areas of concern about care related to assessment, observation, record keeping and privacy and dignity.
“I wish to thank all of our staff for their continued hard work and dedication in what continues to be extremely difficult times. Day in, day out our staff treat the majority of patients with a high level of care and professionalism and we appreciate the support and goodwill of our staff, which has been considerable – we do not take it for granted. However, the level of care, safety and experience that investigators recently identified in some cases is completely unacceptable. '

A schedule for local consultation may have to wait until the new Interim CE is announced.

In the meantime, we hear that the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is currently welcoming applications from patients, carers and lay people to sit on a number of NICE groups and committees, as part of their Patient and Public Involvement Programme.  They have vacancies on the following committees (mainly meeting in Manchester):

Technology Appraisal Committee D closing date Monday 26 March 2012
Dyspepsia/Gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD) Guideline Development Group closing date 22 March 2012
Epilepsy Quality Standard Topic Expert Group closing date 28 March 2012
Hypertension Quality Standard Topic Expert Group closing date 27 March 2012

For more patient, carer and lay opportunities please see the NICE webpages

See previous story: Watchdog threatens closure of RLI A & E Department

See also: Morecambe MP explains why he voted against NHS risk register publication