New management at "directionless" Morecambe Bay NHS Trust after repeated failings


New senior executives have been appointed to assume day-to-day running of the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust (UHMBT).

Hospital Medical Negligence

The Trust, which covers Furness General Hospital, Royal Lancaster Infirmary, Westmorland General Hospital and Ulverston Community Health Centre, has come under increasing scrutiny following a number of scandals.

The independent trusts regulator Monitor and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) have pinpointed issues with the UHMBT management's routine running of the organisation.

According to the watchdogs, the Trust has failed to meet the standards of care required in a number of areas, particularly obstetrics and outpatients' staffing. 2 mothers and 4 babies have died in the maternity unit at Furness, while low staffing levels and a "shambles" in the outpatients' appointment system have been reported at the Royal Lancaster.

Anyone who has visited or who will visit these particular hospitals and medical care centres has the right to expect that their treatment is of a high standard and is not compromised in any way due to failings within the Trust. It is a sad fact that it’s the patient who is always the one who ends up suffering in these situations and in cases of negligence could end up bringing a claim against the Trust.

The Trust board was further criticised for shortcomings in the way it approached service improvement.

Following repeated censure, the Trust's chief executive Tony Halsall resigned in February and Eric Morton is now the interim chief executive.

Sir David Henshaw, of Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool, has been appointed new interim chair of the Trust, while day-to-day operation of the UHMBT across all sites will be overseen by Juliet Walters, appointed Chief Operations Officer.

In addition to the new executives, UHMBT will also have to create a programme management office to help deliver a full recovery plan and avoid any potential claims for medical negligence. With claims against private doctors and the NHS rising sharply in England and Wales, this is a situation the Trust's new management is keen to avoid.

Monitor's CEO, Stephen Hay, said the regulator's role was to make certain that hospitals are being run efficiently by the board on behalf of all patients.

"The action we are taking now is designed to strengthen the Trust's board so that it can move quickly and effectively to deal with the concerns identified," said Mr Hay.

"Sir David Henshaw is an experienced chair and it will be his job to take whatever action is necessary to fix the problems so that patient care is delivered to the standards they should be able to expect, now and in the future."

At a special meeting in December, "management culture" at the Trust was denounced by Dr David Earnshaw, a Cumbria county councillor and a member of the GP out-of hours-team at Westmorland General Hospital.

Dr Earnshaw said that staff "feared for their positions" and were unwilling to speak out, and that he had been told by one senior manager not to talk to staff about their complaints.

He also criticised the 2008 decision to transfer acute services from Westmorland General to the Royal Lancaster.

"The trust was told in 2007-08 that moving services from Westmorland was only going to pile more pressure on Lancaster. This was predicted; it has happened."

In October 2011, after reports of a serious incident in which a patient had not been asked to attend the outpatients department as required, UHMBT conceded there had been delays with follow-up appointments.

In December, 2 senior executives resigned from the Trust, prompting Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron to comment that UMBHT was "lurching from one crisis to another with no clear sense of direction".

With the Trust failing to meet the required standards of care in several areas it could only be a matter of time before the Trust could face claims of medical negligence and they need to ensure that their standards are dramatically improved.

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