FEATURE: Hinchingbrooke Hospital’s new CEO outlines plans for the future

Circle new Chief Executive Hisham Abdel-Rahman, at Hinchingbrooke Hospital

Circle new Chief Executive Hisham Abdel-Rahman, at Hinchingbrooke Hospital - Credit: Archant

SOME of Huntingdonshire’s older residents could be treated at home rather than going to hospital, the new chief executive of Hinchingbrooke has revealed.

Hisham Abdel-Rahman, who took over the top job at the Huntingdon hospital last week, has set out his ambitions of making every department a centre of excellence as well as providing services “beyond the hospital walls”.

Mr Abdel-Rahman, 51, replaces Jim O’Connell, who is taking early retirement after working for the NHS for 24 years.

Talking to The Hunts Post, Mr Abdel-Rahman, who was born in Egypt and graduated from Cairo University before joining the Egyptian army where he trained in obstetrics and gynaecology, said he was passionate about Hinchingbrooke, its family feel and its patient focus.

He has worked as a doctor at the hospital since 2000 – and for the NHS for 20 years – after completing postgraduate training in the UK. He lives in Godmanchester with his wife Naomi, also 51.

The former Hinchingbrooke medical director said: “The first priority is to have clinical excellence. We already have it in many areas but the goal is to achieve clinical excellence throughout Hinchingbrooke.

“I believe there are a lot of areas already at that next level and others that are in a position to be able to achieve it. We want to be in a position where our services at the hospital are each a centre of excellence in their own right.

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“There is a myth that to achieve excellence means spending more money, but by striving for excellence you improve the quality and the safety of the services and the money takes care of itself.

“Just take maternity as an example. Up until about two years ago, it had financial assistance of about £1.2million in the previous three to four years. By achieving clinical excellence you achieve financial balance.”

Hinchingbrooke’s maternity service is ranked as the best of 17 units in the region and it saves money by being safe, Mr Abdel-Rahman said – it is less of a liability risk to the insurance scheme and, therefore, its premium gets reduced.

“If you get to level three [the highest rating for maternity services] then you get a 30 per cent discount,” he said – the same theory as with car insurance.

Further savings are made on the staffing side – a well-run unit provides good job satisfaction, less staff turnover and less need for costly locums and agency staff.

“But you have got to have the quality first,” said Mr Abdel-Rahman.

Another of his’s goals will be taking services in to the community, providing services in patients’ homes by integrating with partners such as social care providers.

The hospital is bidding for a community services healthcare contract, with the preferred supplier due to be decided in December.

“Care of the elderly is the first area we will look at,” he said. “This group has the most need to be treated in their own homes. There is plenty of evidence that suggests that hospital admissions can become the end of an elderly person’s independence. We need to support that independence by supporting them.”

While this move would reduce unnecessary hospital admissions and some costs, it comes with its own financial burdens – the need to invest in training to allow medicine to be administered in a patient’s home and the IT capabilities needed in order to manage such care.

This integrated hospital model is in use elsewhere in the country, said Mr Abdel-Rahman, but the model has yet to be perfected.

Work continues on the financial side to deliver Circle’s promise to break even this year.

“We started last year on improving quality and safety and savings will come out of that. That will reduce the need for locum and agency spend.

“There’s a big programme to improve efficiency on the surgical side – we have experimented with how you can improve turnaround times. Obviously, the surgery will take the same amount of time but we’re looking at the things in- between surgery – how the patient arrives and is prepared for surgery.”

The hospital is also under going about 17 building projects, including the addition of new panels to improve the hospital’s appearance.

One of the larger projects, which is to start in November, will create a new intensive treatment unit (ITU). After input from Circle with its private sector knowledge the work is going to cost £2.7m – under the NHS the quotes ranged from £5m to £7.2m.

“With Circle’s experience of building hospitals in an efficient way, we are able to build a better ITU for £2.7m,” said Mr Abdel-Rahman.

This experience is just one of the things, according to Mr Abdel-Rahman, that Circle brings to the NHS.

Better value for money in the hospital’s capital expenditure will free up money to spend elsewhere, such as the Woodlands Cancer Unit where staff are currently trying to raise up to £1m to expand the facilities.

The Hunts Post is currently helping with the fundraising appeal, with various community groups and individuals getting involved in scheme to raise money – something Mr Abdel-Raham believes makes Hinchingbrooke so special.

He said: “There a lot of community involvement in helping with charity work for Hinchingbrooke and it gives the community ownership of their hospital.”

Hinchingbrooke’s future, Mr Abdel-Rahman said, looks bright – despite the rumblings from Westminster that there is an over- provision of hospital services in the area.

The accusation stems from Peterborough Hospital’s financial problems – the burden of its PFI deal for the large new building is seen as unsustainable, and some MPs have questioned whether Huntingdonshire’s patients should be travelling to Peterborough for treatments.

“Lots of things have changed,” said Mr Abdel-Rahman. “There is evidence that shows having a hospital of the size of Hinchingbrooke is perfect to be efficient and for meeting the needs of the community – especially as hospitals need to move out into the community.

“Things have moved on from five or six years ago and there are ’s more arguments to support the existence of Hinchingbrooke.”

And should the threats to its future begin to loom over Huntingdonshire’s hospital again, then be warned ... “I have a military background,” said Mr Abdel-Rahman.