Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Joint Health Scruitny meeting on Epsom and St Helier NHS trust

Last night I attended the first meeting of the Joint Health Scrutiny Panel in County Hall Kingston, this consists of representatives from Surrey County Council, Sutton and Merton. The purpose of the panel was to question the Epsom and St Helier trust which covers these three areas about the £24 Million deficit in the trust and how it is being addressed by the trust.At the meeting we had the Interim Chief Executive Graham Smith and a manager from the trust. Both of them gave a presentation to the panel about how the deficit was being addressed along with proposed savings. In December, the Chief Executive of the trust Lorraine Clifton resigned along with the trust chair shortly afterwards, Graham Smith was brought in basically as a troubleshooter to address the deficit.

Amongst the proposals, it included reducing peoples stay in hospital which will lead to bed closures and also ward closures in the trust. The reconfiguring of outpatient bookings along with various other measures primarily aimed at the corporate side end along with improving efficiency in the utilisation of scheduling of operating theatres also figure in the proposals.

In terms of job losses it looks like most will be through natural wastage, though staff turnover has been increasing, but then again morale is not exactly sky high at the trust given the cuts that need to be made(most of which has been due to trust mismanagement in controlling budgets). At the meeting I also asked questions about focus groups that they have set up into reviewing services, after questioning they seemed to have little or no involvement of hospital users and it has been geared more towards the interests of consultants and staff. They were also unable to answer questions about the potential impact of patient choice on the health service, which could potentially have a huge impact on income and future funding bearing in mind the commissioning model we're moving towards in the health service.

Another issue is that they seemed to have done a reversal on the use of the Sutton Hospital site. They are considering relocating outpatient services to Epsom and St Helier. When questioned they are clearly looking at options for the whole site which is owned by the trust, we were informed it was a reversal of last years policy. Just eighteen months ago, this site had been designated as the site of the Critical Care Hospital replacing both Epsom and St Helier but it looks like that the trust are now examining other options. Indeed some have speculated that they may be looking to sell the whole site with the Royal Marsden Hospital apparently interested in expanding its site(it abuts Sutton Hospital)it will be interesting to see what happens next as other uses are clearly been looking at for the site.

The meeting was conducted in a constructive manner and chaired very ably by Cllr Chris Pitt of Surrey County Council. Being a councillor who has not been on any health scruitny over the past year, it was also a useful insight into the workings of the NHS and the trust. I have to say however some of the answers given from the trust were slightly evasive(they are clearly not used to scrutiny), though I have to say it showed the benefit of scrutiny in questioning officials about their performance and the impact that their savings may have on service users.

Another meeting is of the joint panel is likely to take place in June.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well done, Martin! We hope your searching questions/queries eventually help the Trust to get back on track. How much statutory power has this scrutiny panel over the Trust? Can it actually enforce anything, or just query?

Also, we hear that former Merton Labour Councillor Mike Brunt has recently been appointed a non-Exec Director of the Trust. Then we'll look forward to the Trust embarking on more people-oriented issues than concerned with consultant-oriented focus groups!


9:49 pm  

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