Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s directors this week issued apologies to the people of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk after the failed trust board had been placed in special measures.
Health services regulator Monitor says care at the hospital is not consistent and has brought in a new chairman, chief-executive and improvement director as part of a turnaround plan.
But members of the board say this is a good opportunity for the trust to move forward as it will be receiving extra support by working in partnership with London’s Guy’s and St Thomas’s Foundation Trust.
David Dean, currently the vice-chairman of Guy’s and St Thomas’ Trust, has taken over as trust chairman from Kate Gordon, who stepped down last week.
The new chief-executive is Manjit Obhrai, a key member of the turnaround team at the crisis-hit mid-Staffordshire Foundation Trust. Former chief-executive Patricia Wright has taken up a new post as chief-executive of the Royal College of Physicians.
Improvement director is David Hill, who led the turnaround of Gorleston’s James Paget Hospital.
Monitor and the trust are keen to stress that the hospital is still a safe place to be treated but many of its problems arise from low staffing levels of nurses.
The move comes after concerns were raised about the quality of patient care by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and NHS England.
Joint medical director Dr Mark Blunt said: “The first thing we would like to do is apologise to patients.
“But we would also need to apologise to our staff who have been working incredibly hard under difficult circumstances over a long period.”
Dr Beverley Watson, who is the joint medical director, said: “We are not happy to have the Monitor announcement but we think it represents a very good opportunity for the trust to move forward and to progress the improvements we have already started in the quality of care.”
The trust has already taken steps to address the staffing level concerns. It has employed a total of 71 Portuguese nurses and is due to appoint 40 new nursing assistants. It is trying to recruit locally at the nearby universities along with working to encourage new nurses to return to practice.
Dr Blunt said: “By Christmas we expect to be at or very close to our ideal nursing numbers.
“At the moment, the target we absolultely have to stay above is one registered nurse to every eight patients in the day and one registered nurse to every 11 patients at night. Our aspiration on the board is to reach a 1-6 ratio on average across a 24-hour period.”
Funding is a problem within the trust, which is expected to be £3 million in the red by the end of the year.
But Dr Blunt says this highlights funding problems across health care services across West Norfolk along with the need of improved social and community services so some patients could receive appropriate care at home.
He said: “If we can do this thing, quality in hospitals will improve substantially as we can focus on looking after patients that really need our care.”