Poor morale at NHS trust is due to constant leadership changes, say St Albans councillors


Letters - Credit: Archant

Assurances are being sought that action is being taken after the recent Care Quality Commission (CQC) report slating St Albans City Hospital as inadequate.

Last month, England’s chief inspector of hospitals, Professor Mike Richards, said facilities in some areas across West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs hospitals in St Albans, Watford and Hemel Hempstead, were in a poor state of repair, and caused a potential risk to staff and visitors.

As a result of the CQC recommendations, the NHS Trust Development Authority decided to place the trust into special measures.

At a full district council meeting last Wednesday (14), councillors agreed to write to the chief executive of the West Herts Hospitals Trust, Jac Kelly, expressing “deep concern at revelations of poor management, negative culture and inadequate governance”.

Furthermore, the authority wants assurances that action is being taken to fix shortcomings.

A copy of the council’s letter of concern will also be sent to the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt.

Cllr Anthony Rowlands described the CQC findings as a “deeply alarming inspection report which paints a pretty grim picture.

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“We must seek convincing assurance that effective measures are being taken.

“I think in criticising the trust we should also recognise there are hundreds, if not thousands, of nurses, doctors and ancillary staff who are doing their utmost to ensure health service provision is as good as it can be. It is important we hold the trust to account.”

Cllr Rowlands said one of the problems “besetting the trust is that there are continuous changes in senior personnel.

“And surely that cannot be good ...[to] maintain morale if senior managers and those responsible at senior governance level are constantly changing.”

On October 14 Ms Kelly wrote to the council to say that while it was “clearly disappointing” to see the trust rated as inadequate, there had already been improvements including ensuring that patients arriving at Watford General Hospital’s accident and emergency department were assessed within 15 minutes by a clinical professional. Diagnostic waiting times and referral to treatment both now meet national standards.

She said the trust was working to ensure it got “the culture of the organisation right ... improving governance and risk”.

But Cllr Rowlands described Ms Kelly’s letter as ‘defensive’ and its tone ‘unhelpful’.

Cllr Roma Mills said there was particular concern about resources, particularly in light of “massive problems with recruitment” as a trust in special measures “will not be the best one to recruit into. Staffing is fragile”.

Council leader, Cllr Julian Daly, said the authority was keen to help the trust as, “we are deeply concerned, but it isn’t about kicking the NHS when it is down.”