South London Healthcare NHS Trust poor report from the Care Quality Commission

Ward closures and service reductions at Queen Mary’s Hospital (QMH) are among the most important issues facing the residents of Bexley and north Bromley.  I have long felt that the loss of these services was triggered by the uncertainty caused by the Labour’s “A Picture of Health (APoH)” strategy and compounded by poor forward planning by the multi-hospital trust that was set up.

Regular readers will know that I have received criticism from some people who feel that I and the local MPs should have done more to keep the services at QMH open but I feel that the trust’s management were not committed to those same ends.  Everything I’ve seen leads me to believe that they were keen to push ahead with the previous government’s plans and had taken decisions in pursuit of those plans.  The whole episode severely dented my confidence in the SLH Trust management.

With the history of the last few years as a backdrop, I was disappointed but unsurprised to read the poor report that the trust got from the Care Quality Commission last week.  The three part report is heavy reading at 188 pages but the opening paragraph of each part’s executive summery gives a flavour:

We found that Queen Mary’s Hospital Sidcup and Beckenham Beacon were not meeting one or more essential standards. Improvements are needed.

We found that Princess Royal University Hospital was not meeting one or more essential standards. Improvements are needed.

We found that Queen Elizabeth Hospital was not meeting one or more essential standards. Improvements are needed.

It is clear that the commitment of front line staff was not to blame for the poor showing, Colin Hough, Regional Director of CQC for London said “Overall patients we spoke to were happy with the care they received at all three hospitals. However, they also said they didn’t think there were always enough staff on duty and some people told us they felt they had been let down by the hospitals.

“We saw staff who were professional and caring towards their patients and were committed to providing care of the highest quality although some staff told us they did not think they had enough suitable equipment to do their jobs well. Staff also told us they were concerned about changes that maybe taking place in the trust and that this has had an effect on staff morale.”

Politicians are often criticised for interfering with the decisions of “health professionals” and I know that Andrew Lansley is keen to decentralise and give clinicians more control, but in the case of QMH I think intervention is warranted.  James Brokenshire has written to Andrew on this very issue and I echo his calls to stop the APoH changes and break the trust back up into separate hospital trusts.

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