A Severe Case of Boardroom Bloat at NHS Peterborough and Cambridgeshire

07:33 Monday 16th August 2011
Peterborough Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

ANDY GALL: More on the ongoing GP surgeries consultation at NHS Peterborough. The Primary Care Trust is looking at closing and expanding certain surgeries, as it looks to save money. Well one set of campaigners angry at the possible closure of Alma Road surgery say other bigger Trusts in places like Manchester and Liverpool only have 6 or 7 Executive Directors, but NHS Peterborough have 12. We can speak now to Geoff Catlin who is one of those campaigners. Good morning Geoff.
GEOFF CATLIN: Good morning Andy.
ANDY GALL: So why do you think NHS Peterborough has too many directors?
GEOFF CATLIN: Well the reason why is something that we’ve got to get to the bottom of. We’ve certainly looked at this, because our campaign with regard to Alma Road is more than just aiming at saving a surgery. We realised once we started to research and look into all the matters, that there were many many varied issues that affect the whole of Peterborough, and one of the areas that we’ve looked at is to say, during times of recession and austerity, can we achieve more by working more effectively and more efficiently, both at the various GP surgery levels in Peterborough, with considering extended opening hours, more efficient use of their premises …
ANDY GALL: What’s your main concern about Alma Road closing then? And how do you think you can turn it around?
GEOFF CATLIN: The Alma Road issue  is one that concerns us from the PCT’s present review, because one of the issues that it hasn’t taken into account in its business plan is actually reviewing what we’ve got, in terms of best quality downward. All the PCT has shown in its business plan are there were seven performers. Now our contention here is that Alma Road, if we had a full review, would turn out to be one of the very best performers in Peterborough.
ANDY GALL: You say seven performers. What do you mean? It was in the top seven performers?
GEOFF CATLIN: No. They’ve actually shown the worst seven performers …
ANDY GALL: Right.
GEOFF CATLIN: .. in the business case. And it’s quite interesting because the PCT has stated that they consider the big practices to be the future. But among the seven that they’ve highlighted, this is the PCT that have highlighted them, not us, they’ve highlighted the Thomas Walker Surgery, which is one of the larger ones in Peterborough. And again it’s quite interesting because one of the GPs who is actually practising at the Thomas Walker Centre is Dr Harshad Mistry, who is the Urgent Care Commissioning Lead for NHS Peterborough, and actually sits on the Board of NHS Peterborough.
ANDY GALL: You’re campaigning to keep the Alma Road Surgery open.
GEOFF CATLIN: Yes.
ANDY GALL: So how much money could be saved if we were to trim the number of Directors, from 12, where we are now, and your argument is that some other big established cities and counties have got a smaller amounts of Directors than we have.
GEOFF CATLIN: Well I think that we should be looking in the region of at least £500,000 per annum, if we had the figures.
ANDY GALL: £500,000 per annum? Because you’ve got to be careful because people are listening to this and it’s just figures that are being bandied around. £500,000 per annum.
GEOFF CATLIN: Yes. We’d like the figures from NHS Peterborough.
ANDY GALL: Is that the cost of 12 Executive Directors?
GEOFF CATLIN: Well they were trying to establish what the exact costs are. But information is not particularly forthcoming from the PCT. But if I give  you some examples compared with the combined Peterborough/Cambridgeshire number of Directors. There are 14 in Peterborough, which includes the Executive Directors plus 2 GP Council Members. In addition to that they have an Interim Director, who’s responsible for Primary Care. So we’re looking at a total of 15.
ANDY GALL: Well we know that there is obviously a hierarchy of management within any organisation, but it’s a tricky situation. NHS Peterborough needs to save money, and last week we spoke to one of the GPs at Alma Road who told us that the Surgery saves the PCT millions of pounds. So therefore your argument as a campaigner would be, can’t we keep it open, surely.
GEOFF CATLIN: Oh yes. Yes, entirely. Because our view is that we don’t want to be losing frontline services, wherever they are in Peterborough, at the expense of an overloaded or potentially over loaded non-frontline service. And I think everything now has to be taken on board, has to be looked at, to produce the most effective and most cost-efficient option for Peterborough.
ANDY GALL: Also Geoff. People might not be aware listening, but you’ve got an absolute array of paperwork out in front of you, loads of documents that you’ve been sifting through as well. So I imagine you’re finding it a bi of a headache to try and get your head around, and as a campaigner, finding the salient points and the issues that you need to campaign on is key, isn’t it?
GEOFF CATLIN: I don’t think it’s difficult to get one’s head around it. It would certainly be more helpful if NHS Peterborough released information of the many many questions that have been asked of them. But if we look at the Board situation first. For example, we’re talking .. there are two areas. There are Chairman and Non-Executive Directors who are part-time and on a retainer. We have no problems in that area. The numbers are reflective with other … (FADED DOWN)
ANDY GALL: Well what do you want to see then? What do you want to see happen then? Because you know isn’t the Government looking at cutting the number of buildings that the NHS have? What are you .. what do you hope to achieve?
GEOFF CATLIN: Well what we hope to achieve is a) to retain the best services in Peterborough for the budget that is there. And that is what we’re contending, that Alma Road is providing that. But also, we’re looking at getting a more efficient operation, a more efficient use of monies that are available. Now that means that if cuts have to come, then they have to come in different areas, to preserve the frontline. Why should potentially 80,000 GP and walk-in appointments be lost in the short-term, which would be the sum total of Alma Road and Burleigh Road’s GP appointments, and the drop-ins at Alma Road?
ANDY GALL: Well we’ve got a statement. We’ve got a statement here that we can add to your file.
GEOFF CATLIN: Yes. Sure.
ANDY GALL: NHS Peterborough has sent us a statement. “NHS Peterborough and NHS Cambridgeshire have a joint senior leadership team, which works across both organisations. Some positions within this team are one individual responsible for the same area of work across both organisations.
GEOFF CATLIN: Let us then look at comparisons Andy. The combined total of the populations of Peterborough and Cambridgeshire, with their combined Board of 17 individuals, if we count Mr Peter Whiteman the Interim Director in Peterborough within that total, and the 2 GP Council Members in Peterborough, we’ve got a total of 17 covering Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. Lincolnshire, our bordering county which is considerably larger in population has a total of 5 Executive Directors. Now if we look at some of the large cities, again a much larger entity than the combined Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Liverpool – 7, Manchester – 5.
ANDY GALL: So in essence then Geoff, you’re saying’ look, you want them to slim down the Executive Directors, save money, and keep the Alma Road Surgery.
GEOFF CATLIN: I think this is one option. Not necessarily just Alma Road, but to keep the services on the frontline, where we can trim down in areas of overloaded backroom support. If others can do it, why can Peterborough and Cambridge not achieve the same?
ANDY GALL: Geoff, thank you very much for talking to us this morning. That’s Geoff Catlin, who’s one of the campaigners for keeping the Alma Road Surgery open.

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