Hospital chairman gets backing of watchdog
9:00am Friday 1st March 2013 in News
HEALTH watchdog Monitor said it is “supportive” of Bolton NHS Foundation Trust’s interim chairman David Wakefield in the wake of the mortality rate investigation.
Monitor, who appointed Mr Wakefield as chairman in August, said it is “encouraged” by his work to strengthen the board.
It comes as the trust faces a leadership void. It currently has no chief executive, an acting deputy chief executive and an acting medical director.
On Wednesday, Mr Wakefield told The Bolton News he would be “bringing in additional resources” and would announce changes to board members yesterday.
But he has yet to make an announcement.
The acting chief executive, Dr Jackie Bene, “stepped aside” earlier this week after it was announced an investigation by healthcare information expert Dr Foster into the way patients were “coded” at the hospital had been launched.
The trust recorded 800 cases of septicaemia between March, 2011, and April, 2012 — a similar-sized trust would have 200.
The investigation’s results will be released next Wednesday.
If patients have been coded incorrectly as having died from septicaemia, which is not included in mortality figures, it could affect Bolton’s death records.
Bolton’s death figures dramatically improved in 2011 after six consecutive years when they had been among the worst in the country.
It could also affect finances, as cases of septicaemia receive more money than other infections.
The trust is being monitored by Monitor for being in “significant breach”, in “red risk” and at the highest risk level of one for poor governance, failing to achieve healthcare targets and financial failings.
It is currently more than £14.5 million in debt and is losing about £1.5 million each month. Monitor intervened in August after it was discovered £3.8 million was “unaccounted” for at the Trust.
Since August, the governing board has faced a number of changes.
Mr Wakefield replaced the chairman, Cllr Cliff Morris, leader of Bolton Council, who left three months early after eight years in the post.
The director of finance, Gary Raphael, left by “mutual agreement” in September and has been replaced by three interim directors.
Chief executive Lesley Doherty took early retirement at Christmas and the director of assurance and engagement, Beverley Andrew, followed in January. Neither have been replaced. There have also been two interim chief operations officers and a temporary turnaround director was appointed in September.
Orthopaedic surgeon Steve Hodgson was appointed acting medical director in January after Dr Jackie Bene was appointed acting chief executive.
The trust held interviews in January for a permanent chief executive but were unable to find anyone suitable.
A Monitor spokesman said: “Monitor is supportive of the trust’s interim chairman and his timely action in responding to the concerns raised by this issue.
“Last August, Monitor intervened to appoint the interim chairman after an independent review into board governance raised concerns in relation to the previous leadership at the trust, which the interim chair has been working to address.
“We are also encouraged by the interim chair’s steps to strengthen the trust’s management at executive level in both the short and medium term.
“Monitor will work with the trust to ensure recommendations from the independent review are implemented in full.”
Cllr Andy Morgan, who sits on the Health, Overview and Scrutiny Committee, said the hospital needed a strong leadership.
“Somebody needs to get to grips with the situation and get a chief executive at the trust. Monitor should be here making sure this is sorted as soon as possible,” he added.