Elected Mayor of Watford has commented on West Herts Hospital Trust being taken into special measures:
As you may know, West Herts Hospital Trust, which operates Watford Hospital, has today been put into "special measures". Whist this is deeply worrying, it is not a surprise. For ten years we have been trying to work with the management of the Trust to ascertain their future needs as part of our Health Campus plan. It has been apparent that they were struggling with day to day challenges and difficulties in addition to their financial deficit.
The Trust and Watford Hospital have been judged by the Care Quality Commission to have failings in the safety and quality of its care for patients. Some of the issues included a chronic lack of nurses, facilities in a seriously bad state of affairs, and failure to learn lessons from previous patient safety issues.
People in Watford will be understandably upset about this report, and concerned about the level of care they would receive at our hospitals.
There were concerns that the Outpatients and Surgical areas at Watford Hospital were too small, and the fabric of the building wasn't always acceptable. If you've visited the hospital you'll have seen it for yourself. It's one of the reasons why the Health Campus is so very much needed. We need modern facilities that mean that staff can get on with their jobs safely and efficiently.
On a positive note, care in children’s and young people’s services was outstanding - and that chimes with what local residents tell me. There have also been other recent successes, such as a report last week that the trust is one of just 17 in England to have a ‘lower than expected’ mortality rate.
We need to remember that hundreds of local people work their socks off in the hospital and this will sap morale. The Government insists on putting up notices at every hospital entrance to name and shame them - that won't make staff skip to work!
However, we can't gloss over the fact that there are problems that need addressing. Whether it's getting A&E waiting times down, appointing more nurses or improving facilities, there's a lot to do.
Some of this has already started, and the report praised the Trust’s interim chief executive, Jac Kelly, for understanding the problems there and taking decisive action to tackle them. Jac understood that there were big changes needed when she started the job earlier this year, and she's been working hard to make them.
There has been a long history of management instability at the trust. The most recent full-time chief executive, for instance, stayed only a short while before being - believe it or not - promoted to a major role in NHS England having received the prestigious Chief Executive of the Year Award. Of course all senior managers should be of the best quality, but the Government also needs to encourage them to stay and sort out problems rather than leave and find more interesting jobs to do elsewhere.
There’s a tough road ahead for West Herts Hospital Trust. Some changes must be made urgently, others will take longer. My job is to support the new "top team" at the Trust - not only senior management, but the new Chair of the Board as well. I will fight to retain Watford as the acute Hospital for the area.
I hope this post has been helpful. I'll make sure to keep you updated in the months ahead.