Hinchingbrooke: Believing Whitehall was main mistake
THE National Health Service seems to be in a complete mess in terms of strategic management. The organisation doesn t work in a joined-up way and its financing is higgledy-piggledy. In one sense, this is hardly surprising. A recent national survey showed
THE National Health Service seems to be in a complete mess in terms of strategic management.
The organisation doesn't work in a joined-up way and its financing is higgledy-piggledy.
In one sense, this is hardly surprising. A recent national survey showed 80 per cent of the nation wanted the NHS to provide the best available treatment whatever the cost.
According to the Healthcare Commission, Hinchingbrooke is an "excellent" hospital. Yet its financial position has gone horrendously adrift.
It had a deficit at the end of March 2005 of about £4million. A year later that was forecast to be £6.5million but, when the final bills came in, it became £7.75million.
Suddenly, three months later, it became a £20million deficit for next March on income of £72million, then a £30million shortfall, then back to £20million, now maybe £33million - or £24million if all goes well.
- 1 No water relief for depleted rivers and reservoirs with another heatwave forecast
- 2 Family pay tribute to 'hard worker' father killed in A14 crash
- 3 Little Gransden Air and Car Show to celebrate 30 years of fundraising for children in need
- 4 'Risk of injury' - Aldi recalls product due to safety fears
- 5 Man, 37, named as A14 death crash victim
- 6 Huntingdonshire architecture practice shortlisted for national awards
- 7 Little Gransden woman in line for prestigious national award
- 8 War-time crash crew take on street names in Godmanchester
- 9 Huntingdon and Godmanchester celebrate 40-year twinning anniversary in Germany
- 10 St Neots man who put 'fear into the lives' of his victims is jailed
What lies behind these extraordinary numbers?
Hinchingbrooke's error - maybe naïve, but certainly understandable - was to believe what Whitehall had said. It planned and built a £22million treatment centre in the expectation of sufficient patients to remunerate the £250,000-a-month payback cost. Effectively, though indirectly, the Government reneged on that deal.
As a result, a chief executive who gave 150,000 Huntingdonshire patients a standard of hospital service they could not reasonably have dreamed of five years ago is about to leave.
What's more, chief executives' resignations from NHS posts seldom come in isolation. Scapegoats tend to run in herds. Others may also come under pressure to resign over a financial crisis that is largely or completely not of their making.
Only if they connived at or hid the known problem could they be at fault - and, even then, they may have been trying to protect Ministers or the NHS from understandable accusations of supreme incompetence.
Douglas Pattisson, who described his six years at Hinchingbrooke as "very special", did not want to talk about his decision to resign.
However, from recent conversations with The Hunts Post he had clearly been looking forward to presiding over major planned improvements to Hinchingbrooke's services to patients.
The lack of patients in the treatment centre, which was operating at only 70 per cent capacity until the trust shifted other work there and closed no-longer needed beds in the main hospital, had been a serious worry, but it was being addressed.
It is hard to see how much more he could have done to address a shortfall that was not really of Hinchingbrooke's making. Hospital trust chairman Sue Smith said she hoped a replacement for Mr Pattisson would be announced soon, but that may be a temporary appointment. In the meantime, his deputy Liz Pointing will take charge of the ship.
Even though reorganisation of the PCTs has thrown a number of senior NHS managers into the potential melting pot, it is not thought that any of them is likely to succeed Mr Pattisson.
Clearly, the trust's board has someone else in mind.