Pennine Acute Hospitals Trust debate

17th January 2017

Philip Dunne responds to a Westminster Hall debate on the future of the Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust.

It is a pleasure, Mr Streeter, to serve under your chairmanship in such a well-attended debate. I congratulate the hon. Member for Blackley and Broughton (Graham Stringer) on securing the debate and on encouraging so many of his neighbours, who clearly have an interest in healthcare in the area served by the Pennine trust, to attend and to make such powerful contributions. Everyone has spoken from the heart and with true sensitivity.

As the hon. Gentleman said at the start of the debate, it is difficult to strike the right balance between drawing attention to trusts’ obvious failings, which need to be brought into the public domain and dealt with, and not seeking to lay blame on individuals. We all recognise that the individuals who work in the trust, as we heard so powerfully from the hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton (Liz McInnes), who worked at the trust for many years, give of their best and wish to provide the best possible care for their patients. Often the systems and structures around the individuals can inhibit that good intent.

I applaud the hon. Member for Blackley and Broughton for highlighting some dreadful examples of very poor care in the trust over many years, but especially those that came to light last year. As he well knows, the problems at Pennine go back many years. The trust is 16 years old, as other Members have said. Within three years of its creation, consultants at the trust had passed a vote of no confidence in its then management, as the hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton reminded us.

The hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Justin Madders) pointed out that, in the days before the CQC, Sir George Alberti was asked to report on what was happening. Much of last year’s CQC report, however, echoes the findings of the 2005 Alberti report, as the hon. Gentleman said in his constructive contribution. We must try therefore not only to learn the lessons, but to implement them; they clearly have not been in the past few years. I will touch on some key findings of the CQC report before I develop my remarks on what we are doing to respond to the findings and shortcomings.

The CQC report was based on an inspection in February and March last year, which rated the Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust overall as inadequate. In particular, the trust was rated inadequate for safety and leadership. As the hon. Gentleman pointed out, however, it was rated good for care, which is a visible tribute to the quality of care provided by the dedicated staff in the main.

The report found other problems: shortages in nursing, midwifery and medical staff, which have been touched on by other hon. Members; a lack of understanding of key risks at departmental, divisional or board level; problems in services, including in A&E, maternity, and children’s and critical care; key risks were not recognised, escalated or mitigated effectively; and there was inconsistent performance reporting and concern about the quality of data to support performance reporting.

In addition, the CQC identified low morale in a number of services, in particular maternity, and described a poor culture with deeply entrenched attitudes. Regrettably, some staff accepted suboptimal care as the norm, and patients’ individual and specific needs were neither appropriately considered nor met.

Those were the CQC findings. In contrast to what has happened following previous problems and subsequent actions, the new CQC regime is introducing beneficial change—which I hope is recognised by the hon. Member for Heywood and Middleton—and improvement. An inadequate rating by the CQC would normally result in the trust being put into special measures, but in this case a different remedy is being used to turn the trust around and, in particular, to address the obvious challenge of leadership, which almost every contributor to the debate has identified as an historical failing at the trust.

In April last year, the management team of the neighbouring Salford Royal, led by Sir David Dalton and Jim Potter, took over the chief executive and chair roles at Pennine acute on an interim basis. That team is in the process of guiding a management contract for the long term to continue providing the strong leadership needed to drive the improvements that we all recognise. The new management team at the Pennine trust got to work immediately. In July last year, the Salford team completed a diagnostic assessment of the issues facing Pennine and developed a short and long-term improvement programme based on patient safety, governance, workforce, leadership and operational performance.


Given the Pennine trust’s current position and the staff shortfalls that the Minister has also mentioned, what additional funding support can he offer Pennine acute?


I will not be drawn too far down that route at this point, because I would like to develop my overall response. This is not all about funding, as many hon. Members have said. Staff shortages are not necessarily driven by funding either; they are often driven by a trust’s difficulties making it an unattractive place to work. I do not have in my head the number of applicants for vacancies, or the number of vacancies, but I will tell the hon. Lady in a moment how many staff have joined the trust—what increase there has been—under its new leadership.




I am afraid, unless the hon. Lady can give me some figures on vacancies that will help my understanding—


Maintained vacancies have caused significant pressure on, for example, middle-grade clinicians in the A&E department. Vacancies have been maintained to try to save money, and that has been a real issue.


I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her intervention. I will come on to staff issues in a few moments.

As several hon. Members have said, local political leaders have broadly welcomed Sir David Dalton’s appointment as the chief executive of the Salford Royal trust, which is one of the finest trusts in the country and was one of the first to be rated outstanding by the CQC. He is listening to staff and, where appropriate, deploying Salford’s systems and experience to help to support staff in Bury, Rochdale, Oldham and North Manchester to deliver the high standards of service that we all want. I welcome the support that has been expressed for Sir David’s efforts by everyone who has spoken in this debate, in particular the hon. Member for Blackley and Broughton.

Sir David believes that all the evidence shows that staff are best placed to know what needs to be improved in their ward or department. He has introduced a system—tried and tested in Salford—that involves staff and supports them to test their ideas for improvement. Ideas that are shown to work will be replicated across the whole hospital. That approach turns on its head the idea that people in senior management positions always know what is best for patients on a ward, and instead recognises that frontline staff have expertise in spades and supports them. It will help to develop the culture change that was called for in particular by the hon. Member for Oldham West and Royton (Jim McMahon), who rightly identified that as a fundamental problem in the Pennine acute trust.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North (Mr Nuttall) called for, Sir David Dalton at the beginning of this month introduced new site-based leadership teams in each of the four hospitals. For the first time since the creation of the trust 15 years ago, each hospital site and place-based team will consist of a medical director, a nursing director and a managing director, each dedicated to the daily oversight of that hospital. Together, they will manage the services of a care organisation. That site-based arrangement will give leadership teams a clearer focus and enable them to offer staff better support and engagement and take operational decisions for each site. Those leaders will also have the benefit of being in post on site to strengthen local relationships and promote joint working with other partners in the health economy, including local authorities and commissioners.

The hon. Member for Blackley and Broughton and my hon. Friend the Member for Bury North highlighted poor maternity care. The newly appointed director for women’s and children’s services led an internal review of maternity services under the new management arrangements. That review dug deeper and revealed even more than the CQC was able to. Some of the instances of poor care that were revealed are truly shocking, and I express my sincere regret to everyone affected by those tragic incidents, some of which the hon. Member for Blackley and Broughton highlighted. As an immediate result of those reviews, an improvement plan and a new management team for maternity services have been put in place at North Manchester general hospital. Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust maternity staff are working alongside Pennine staff to develop a clinical leadership and staffing support programme.

The hon. Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth (Debbie Abrahams) asked about staffing. I am advised that between March 2016, when the new management team came into place, and December 2016, the number of people employed on a full-time or part-time basis by the trust increased by more than 300. I think that is 300 more full-time equivalents. That includes seven doctors, 133 registered nurses and 58 midwives and is a net addition to the trust.

The A&E departments remain under pressure, not least given the winter pressures that have been common across the NHS in the past couple of weeks. That is particularly true at North Manchester, but that department has been stabilised and measures have been put in place to support staff, including direct GP and primary care input into the A&E department from Manchester GPs. Those GPs are supporting the department seven days a week and seeing around 30 patients a day, taking pressure off the service and ensuring that patients see the right professionals and receive the right care. Similarly, the local NHS in Oldham is piloting embedding enhanced primary care support in the A&E and urgent care system. Two GPs a day work between 11 am and 11 pm to support that system.

Measures have also been taken to stabilise children’s services; there has been a temporary reduction in beds at the Royal Oldham and North Manchester hospitals to reflect the workload that staff, given their current numbers, can deal with safely. Those measures are having an impact on turning around the performance of the hospitals in the trust. Additionally—the hon. Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston asked about funding—extra financial support of £9.2 million was secured in year to enable the trust to put in place immediate and short-term measures to stabilise services.

The hon. Members for Blackley and Broughton and for Oldham West and Royton asked about avoidable deaths and the culture of silence when problems arose. The new management have been determined to change that culture. Since April 2016, the trust has investigated and closed down 489 serious incident cases, and the average investigation time has been reduced from 156 days to 90 days. Considerable progress has been made on changing the culture of how problems and complaints are dealt with.

Hon. Members talked about the future and expressed concern, particularly from a staff perspective, about yet another change happening. As all Members are aware, NHS England is in the midst of implementing sustainability and transformation proposals and turning those into plans for 44 areas across the country. Greater Manchester’s five-year plan, “Taking charge of our Health and Social Care,” predates the request for STPs, but NHS England has agreed that that plan meets the STP requirements and they are now effectively one and the same thing. There is, therefore, a real opportunity for healthcare in Manchester, with devolution of control to the council and opportunities for the local authority to work with the NHS to improve services for all the people of Manchester, to become a model for the rest of the country.

The NHS in Manchester has been looking at how acute services can best be organised to deliver benefits, including operational financial efficiency, for quality of care, patient experience and the workforce. As has been said, the proposal is to create a single acute provider for Manchester, with the Wythenshawe hospital and the North Manchester general hospital joining the Central Manchester foundation trust. That is an ambitious proposal, and the organisational change it requires is complex, but we believe that the potential benefits are considerable and offer a real chance for care to be standardised across the city. I know that hon. Members will be concerned about what that means for the Pennine trust. If that proposal proceeds, services at North Manchester general hospital will be combined with those at the other hospitals in Manchester, but the intention is for the remaining hospitals in the Pennine acute trust to continue to work with Salford Royal in a new relationship, which is under active consideration.

Hon. Members mentioned resources for estates. Like any trust, the Pennine acute trust needs better-quality, flexible and fit-for-purpose buildings. I have little time in which to outline what is happening but, as some hon. Members will be aware, construction has begun of a brand new, purpose-built 24-bed community intermediate care unit on the grounds of North Manchester hospital. That unit will cost £5 billion and will take 12 months to build. The Royal Oldham hospital, which includes the old workhouse, is being developed into a high acuity centre to serve the population of north-east Manchester.

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