North Cumbria hospitals takeover agreement signed today
Published at 14:27, Friday, 25 May 2012
A crucial agreement to enable the takeover of north Cumbria’s hospitals is signed today.
In an exclusive interview with The Cumberland News, interim chief executive Neil Goodwin today revealed he will leave at the end of September – by which time the deal will be all but complete.
But Carlisle’s MP John Stevenson is calling for an interim management team from acquiring trust Northumbria Healthcare brought in immediately.
Pressure has been mounting for the long-awaited takeover of the troubled Carlisle and Whitehaven hospitals to be accelerated as concerns over patient safety reach a new high. All four of the area’s MPs have united to call for current management to step aside and a board from Northumbria to be fast-tracked into place.
One of them said that in the light of widespread safety concerns, it was not appropriate to have a part-time, temporary chief executive in charge – as is currently the case.
Now Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, currently scheduled to take over the Cumberland Infirmary and West Cumberland Hospital later this year, has confirmed it could step in earlier if necessary.
But Dr Goodwin today said that the Heads of Terms agreement, set to be signed today, will already give the new trust a say in what happens at the hospitals.
He said a transitional board – chaired by both himself and Northumbria’s chief executive Jim Mackey – is now in place to oversea the takeover.
But he does not believe the process, due to be complete by December, can be accelerated much further as the deal must be fully assessed by regulators before it can be finalised.
“The process has started but the timescale is beyond our control. It would require changes to central Government’s process,” he said.
“However the Heads of Terms mean this trust has to discuss any major issues with Northumbria. They will be able to have a lot of say.”
Fears for patient safety at the Carlisle and Whitehaven hospitals escalated this week after it emerged staff had recently flagged up a catalogue of new concerns with management. The confidential logs, covering a two-week period last month, include reports of staff and bed shortages, safety fears in A&E, and near-misses. Dr Goodwin gave a personal reassurance that the hospitals are safe.
But Mr Stevenson, who met with the interim chief executive and now wants to meet with chairman Mike Little, said they have heard these assurances before. He believes the takeover must be accelerated to boost patient confidence and staff morale.
“My view, and that of my fellow MPs, is that it can be speeded up. I want to see an interim management team from Northumbria put in place as soon as possible. That would send out a strong signal,” he said.
“I fully accept there are various regulatory loopholes that have to be overcome, but that can still happen with an interim board in place. This has already taken an extraordinary length of time.”
These calls have been echoed by Penrith and the Border MP Rory Stewart, Workington’s Tony Cunningham, Copeland’s Jamie Reed and Carlisle City Council leader Joe Hendry.
Mr Stewart said: “I am deeply concerned. This isn’t the first time that we’ve heard these sort of concerns. What worries me is it looks as though the fundamental problems haven’t been addressed. In the end this is down to management.”
“It is going to be essential that the Northumbria trust gets to grips with this as soon as possible. They have to accelerate the takeover. They are now our best hope.”
Published by http://www.cumberlandnews.co.uk