Health Secretary reveals plans to rescue underperforming NHS hospitals

Jeremy Hunt has announced plans to bring struggling NHS hospitals back from the brink of failure. The Health Secretary’s new measures build upon the idea that skilled managers currently employed in NHS trusts need to be encouraged to demonstrate leadership. The government claims that the changes will make a noticeable difference to the way in which care is provided in hospitals across the country within months.

Under the plans, the highest achieving managers will be brought in to failing hospitals in a bid to improve working culture and practices and bring about changes which lead to greater care quality for patients.

Hunt’s announcement follows months of damaging press revelations about substandard care in the NHS which culminated in a series of reviews and reports which also discovered neglectful, degrading and negligent treatment of patients in a number of NHS trusts. The review led by Sir Bruce Keogh into the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation scandal led to 11 hospitals being placed under special measures as it emerged that the horror stories published in the press about the terrible treatment of patients were just the tip of the iceberg. These hospitals will now be matched up with a manager from a successful NHS trust, much like the system that has been used to bring high-flying head teachers into failing schools to improve performance. In order for the scheme to work, contracts between hospitals which are performing well and the NHS Trust Development Authority or regulator Monitor will need to be drawn up. The work done by managers in the struggling will hospitals will result in payments back to their own trust which will allow them to back-fill the vacated management positions temporarily.

According to Hunt, these changes are markedly different to the scheme used by previous governments whereby management consultants were asked to provide reports on the failures of hospitals. The new scheme is intended to provide practical solutions rather than simply highlight problems.

Take, for instance, Nuneaton’s George Elliott Hospital which is one of the 11 institutions placed under special measures by Keogh. The problem at this hospital is the substandard IT system and as a result, it has been paired with University Hospitals Birmingham, where the IT system is considered to be one of the NHS’ finest.

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