Lynn’s MP has backed the interim management team at the town’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) at the end of a traumatic year for the trust.
The hospital ends 2013 in special measures after external managers were brought in to tackle serious concerns over care standards and the trust’s financial situation.
Meanwhile, union leaders say they fear the hospital is being “run down by stealth”, despite assurances that politicians will work with them to safeguard services.
But, following talks with the hospital’s new managers, North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham has expressed his confidence in their ability to revive its fortunes.
He said: “I have been very impressed with the new chief executive (Manjit Obhrai) and the acting chairman (David Dean).
“We have got some of the best people in the country as part of the turnaround programme and I have every confidence they will have the backing of the staff.”
The scale of the crisis facing the hospital first became apparent in August when a damning report by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), highlighted failings including poor care, breaches of legal requirements and medicine stocks which were almost a year out of date.
Then, in October, the QEH was being put into special measures after Monitor, the body that regulates foundation trusts, which have some independence from the Department of Health, confirmed the trust had breached the terms of its licence.
At that point, Kate Gordon, the trust’s then chairman, resigned, while the former chief executive, Patricia Wright, also leftin the autumn to take up a similar post with the Royal College of Physicians.
Mr Bellingham said most of the areas of concern highlighted by the CQC had now been addressed, while managers were confident they would be able to address Monitor’s worries when an up to date assessment, expected early in the new year, is published.
Meanwhile, union leaders say their trust in Mr Bellingham to fight for hospital services has been renewed following new talks.
The MP met representatives of the hospital’s Unison branch and the Lynn and District Trades Council last week.
And Darren Barber, secretary of the QEH’s Unison branch, said: “We heard what we wanted to hear, and now trust that our MP will continue to act on behalf of the people of West Norfolk.”
Although Mr Bellingham has argued that the QEH’s problems were primarily down to management failings, the unions insist that a lack of funding has been the root cause of the hospital’s problems, despite a £3.9 million grant to improve the accident and emergency unit.
Mr Barber said of the grant: “This still doesn’t go far enough, and we fear that our hospital is being run down by stealth.”
The unions said Mr Bellingham has agreed to work with them and other health chiefs to safeguard hospital services, as well as taking up their concerns over proposed new laws, which they claim could give ministers the power to close any hospital, with health secretary Jeremy Hunt.