£160,000-a-year Bucks health chief has no plans to step down in wake of damning report

Bucks Herald front pages regarding Bucks Healthcare NHS Trust from July 17 and June 5
Bucks Herald front pages regarding Bucks Healthcare NHS Trust from July 17 and June 5

Stoke Mandeville Hospital’s boss says she has the backing of her board despite the trust being put into special measures in the wake of a damning report.

A catalogue of concerns are listed in the report, including doubts over the trust’s managers, low staffing levels, poor morale, a ‘blame culture’ and a lack of empathy over patient complaints.

It is part of NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh’s review of 14 hospital trusts with higher than average death rates.

Despite fears raised about Bucks Healthcare NHS Trust, chief executive Anne Eden said she was happy there were ‘no significant issues with the safety or quality of care provided at our hospitals’.

Bosses at East Lancashire Hospitals Trust have resigned in the wake of the scandal but Ms Eden, who took up the £160,000-a-year post in 2006, said she will not quit.

She said: “I don’t think it’s a time to be walking away from a problem. We have an action plan. We know what we need to be doing.

My role is to lead that plan over the weeks and months to come.”

The report said there is a ‘reactive culture’ among the Bucks trust’s board, claiming they respond to issues rather than taking a proactive approach, and that board members did not properly understand the high death rate and its cause.

It said patients complaints are not dealt with quickly enough, adding: “Insufficient value is placed on addressing patients concerns, which creates the appearance of lacking empathy.” In one instance a complaint was not responded to for 90 days.

Weekend staffing levels came under fire, described as ‘insufficient’ and at times ‘unsafe and unmanageable’.

The report says the trust has a reputation for being a bad place to work for junior doctors at weekends, who feel it is stressful and ‘frightening due to lack of support’.

It says one junior doctor had to cover 180 to 250 patients in a weekend and felt ‘unable to cope’.

Further concerns were raised about staffing levels at the spinal unit, with patients missing out on care as a result and staff morale said to be low.

A ‘blame culture’ is also reported, where staff receive negative feedback when they raise issues and feel their concerns are not listened to.

Ms Eden, who last June was appointed as a visiting professor at Bucks New University, said steps are being taken to address many of the concerns and that the action plan devised as part of the review would help to do this.

However, she rejected the report’s claims that the trust’s board is ‘reactive’, pointing to the consolidation of services, such as centralising A&E at Stoke Mandeville, as ways it is actively moving forward.

Ms Eden said: “The review process has recognised that the actions we have already put in place to improve safety, quality and the patient experience are a step in the right direction.

“However, there were too many instances where patients and staff said we got it wrong and we accept that it is not good enough.”

As part of being in special measures, external experts will be sent into the trust to work with the senior management team and there will be regular updates on progress.

Aylesbury’s MP David Lidington said it would be up to them to decide if bosses can turn around the trust’s performance or whether they need to be replaced.

Mr Lidington said: “There can be advantages in removing people and bringing in someone better but on the other hand that change can in itself introduce delay and dislocation. The priority is the trust puts right the things identified and does so speedily.”

Sir Bruce said the reports make ‘uncomfortable reading’ and there would be ‘serious consequences’ for those trusts that fail to put action plans in place.

He said: “Not one of these trusts has been given a clean bill of health by my review teams. It is a time for considered debate, a concerted improvement effort and a focus on clear accountability.”

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt told the House of Commons: “The public need to know we will stop at nothing to give patients the high-quality care they deserve for themselves and their loved-ones.”