Steve Sweeney – the future of Hinchingbrooke Hospital

hinchingbrooke_foyer08:10 Wednesday 4th March 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

DOTTY MCLEOD: The Director of Nursing and Midwifery at Hinchingbrooke Hospital says their priority is their patients, and they want to become a top rated Hospital. Deidre Fowler spoke at a meeting of Huntingdonshire District Council’s Overview and Scrutiny panel last night. Councillors and members of the public gathered to hear about the future of the Hospital . The private company who run it you’ll remember, Circle, are pulling out of their contract. Sarah Varey our reporter went to the meeting.
SARAH VAREY: A committee meeting like any other in the Civic Suite at Pathfinder House, except the twenty or so seats in the public gallery were almost full of people hoping to find out just what the future holds for the Hospital .
PUBLIC ONE: I’ve got a copy of the Care Quality Commission report (342k pdf). I’m just interested to see what the Chief Executive is proposing for the future. But from where I sit, he shouldn’t be there to propose anything for the future, because they’ve already failed. I’m very interested in the future. I’m actually passionate about it.
SARAH VAREY: As a patient?
PUBLIC ONE: Both as a patient and as a member of the public. I’ve been one probably of their most frequent fliers over the last six years, both as an in-patient and an out-patient. And I think the wonderful staff there are being constantly let down by poor inefficient management.
SARAH VAREY: There was a growing air of anticipation as Item 4 on the agenda was reached, a presentation by Circle CEO Hisham Abdel-Rahman. It came in the form of a multi-coloured Powerpoint presentation, using pie-charts and graphs to represent the causes behind the Care Quality Commission’s highly critical report. A selection of pre-sub,itted questions from members of the public were then put to Dr Abdel-Rahman and three members of the executive board and the Trust board alongside him.. They covered mostly old ground. When did Circle realise the financial situation was deteriorating? What were the contributing factors? Questions from the Scrutiny Panel followed, with a heartfelt plea from one who’s a nurse at the Hospital , asking why no-one told the staff that all was far from well. There followed more coloured graphics headed ‘A realistic view of an improvement journey.’ and delivered by the Director of Nursing Midwifery and Quality, Deidre Fowler. She emphasised the number one priority, to put the patients first, and affirmed their ambition to become a top-rated Hospital , adding ‘we’re downtrodden but not beaten’. Amanda Buckenham from the We Love Hinhingbrooke Hospital group sais she’s looking on the bright side.
AMANDA BUCKENHAM: I take away from it the positive elements, the things that are going well, the fact that they’re not complacent. They do recognise that the improvements need to be made, whilst obviously not accepting as quite a lot of us don’t the overall judgment of the Hospital as being inadequate.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Sarah varey reporting there from that meeting last night at Huntingdonshire District Council. Steve Sweeney was there. Steve is the GMB’s regional Organiser. Steve, this was an opportunity really for people in Huntingdon to talk to the Hospital bosses, to get some answers. Was it effective?

STEVE SWEENEY: I’m not sure that it was actually to be honest Dotty. I think many of the people that attended the meeting were hoping to hear some detail about the long term future of the Hospital and the plan for improvement, and I think many of those people left very disappointed.
DOTTY MCLEOD: What questions would you like answered?
STEVE SWEENEY: Well we were hoping to hear a little bit more about for example the buddying arrangement that we understand is going to be put in place, where the Trust at Hinchingbrooke is going to be paired with another high-performing Trust, to obviously make improvements to patient care. So we were hoping to hear a little bit more about that. We were hoping to hear a little bit more about the future of services, because as we know the Hospital has been left with a £10 million deficit, or a bigger deficit, and that they’re having to ask the TDA (NHS Trust Development Authority) for a loan of £10 million, because of the gap in funding. So we were hoping to hear a little bit more detail about that, and how that impacts on the future of services, particularly Accident and Emergency and Maternity services. And just a little bit more reassurance about how they’re going to be taking things forward. I think it was very thin on detail last night, and I was expecting quite a lot more to be honest.
DOTTY MCLEOD: You heard though from the Director of Nursing and Midwifery at the Hospital , who says that their main priority is the patients. That’s as it should be, isn’t it?
STEVE SWEENEY: Well of course it’s as it should be, and it’s as it always was. That’s a hospital’s main function in this. If they’re not focusing on the patients then they’re doing something very wrong. But I thought that there was really .. that they’re still quibbling about this CQC report, and their view is that they disagree with it, disagree with the rating. And the CQC themselves have said that the challenges that were made by the Trust were unprecedented. And this is a quote from them, they said that ‘the approach taken by the Trust to this process we believe is symptomatic of an organisation not realising the scale of the challenge it faces.’ I wasn’t reassured any further from that last night.
DOTTY MCLEOD: We also heard from Deidre Fowler from Nursing and Midwifery that she would like the Hospital to become ‘a top rated hospital.’ Now Steve do you think that is a realistic ambition in the foreseeable future?
STEVE SWEENEY: Well I think obviously the staff there are doing a fantastic job, and we’re fully behind the staff. Our members work in the Hospital and day in day out they’re doing a fantastic job in very very difficult circumstances. So is it was based on the staff at the Hospital, of course we’d have the best hospital in the country. But I think there has to be a recognition that there’s something not right with the leadership at the Hospital, and the CQC report has indicated that and rated leadership as inadequate. And I think we need to start addressing those issues, because everything flows from that. So it’s a great ambition to have of course, and one that we would support 100%. But I think that there does need to be some recognition of the underlying problems at the Hospital.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Steve, thank you for your time this morning. That’s Steve Sweeney there, the Regional Organiser of the GMB union., speaking off the back of that meeting last night at Huntingdonshire District Council. about the future of Hinchingbrooke Hospital.