NHS failures prompt hospitals shake-up

Six groups under new management after inquiry revealed litany of blunders

Britain’s health secretary Jeremy Hunt has  warned that incapable NHS executives would be fired. Photograph: Neil Hall /Reuters

Britain’s health secretary Jeremy Hunt has warned that incapable NHS executives would be fired. Photograph: Neil Hall /Reuters


Six major British National Health Service hospital groups have been taken over by new management following an investigation that unearthed a litany of blunders and poor management.

In some cases, inspectors found under-manned hospitals, poor standards to cope with infections, poorly maintained operating theatres, or ones where patients were left ignored for hours on trolleys.

The hospital trusts are: Essex’s Basildon and Thurrock, Burton, in Staffordshire; Medway, in Kent; North Lincolnshire and Goole; Nottinghamshire’s Sherwood Forest and the Tameside trust in greater Manchester.

Promising tougher standards for NHS managers, health secretary Jeremy Hunt warned that incapable executives would be fired and blocked from getting well- paid posts elsewhere in the service.

Though deeply worrying, the report, by the NHS England’s medical director Bruce Keogh, is separate from the inquiry that led to disclosures of catastrophic levels of care blamed for the deaths of several thousand people in Staffordshire. In his report, Mr Keogh said: “We found pockets of excellent practice in all 14 of the trusts reviewed. However, we also found significant scope for improvement, with each needing to address an urgent set of actions in order to raise standards of care.

“These organisations have been trapped in mediocrity, which I am confident can be replaced by a sense of ambition if we give staff the confidence to achieve excellence.”

‘Never events’
In some cases, hospital trust management were “shockingly unaware” of the problems found by the inspectors. Two operating theatres in hospitals in Cumbria were in such poor condition that they were “closed immediately”, while a number of hospitals in Lincolnshire reported 12 so-called never events in three years. The inquiry prompted a battle in the Commons yesterday between the health secretary and his Labour predecessor, Andy Burnham, with Mr Hunt claiming Labour had hidden evidence of poor treatment.

The Keogh investigation into high mortality figures in 14 hospital trusts dealt with cases in 2011 and 2012 – after Labour had left office, Mr Burnham told the Commons. Claiming that Labour had “covered up weak hospital leadership” and failed to deliver compassionate care for patients, Mr Hunt said: “We owe it to the three million people who use the NHS every week to tackle and confront mediocrity and inadequate leadership head on.”

Weekend briefings by the secretary of state’s office talked of 13,000 “unnecessary” deaths: “There’s nothing about that in Keogh. And Keogh actually is a very balanced report, saying that in the vast majority of cases, the NHS gets it right.”