THE new boss at the cash-strapped trust that runs King’s Mill Hospital says that it is wrong to blame all of its problems on its PFI contract - but admits it is a big contributor.
Eric Morton was appointed as the interim chief executive at Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in October, after watchdog Monitor intervened in the running of the organisation.
Mr Morton has previous experience in coming to the rescue of troubled hospital trusts, having been drafted in to work at foundation trusts at Mid Staffordshire and Morecambe Bay, and has wasted no time in looking into the problems at King’s Mill.
“The organisation is in distress,” he said, during an exclusive interview with Chad.
“It’s not sudden - there have clearly been issues that have been progressively getting worse over a number of years.
“What we mustn’t do is tie it all in to the PFI. That’s the wrong answer.”
Mr Morton described King’s Mill as the ‘best’ facility that he has ever worked in, but said it has come at a cost.
He feels it is both ‘over-engineered’ and ‘bigger than it needs to be,’ but said that does not mean the new hospital was not needed - the old building was, he said, ‘not fit for purpose’.
“It had no future and had the building not been replaced, there would have been question marks over what services they continued offering going forward,” he said.
The problem now is that the 32-year-long PFI contract has become a huge financial burden and Monitor has stated that it ‘threatens the long term financial sustainability of the Trust’.
Mr Morton said that support from the wider NHS will be needed in order to manage it.
“We need to solve as much as we can within the local community, but I think there may well have to be a debate beyond mid Nottinghamshire on how to stabilise the situation,” he said.
The financial problems at Sherwood Forest Hospitals have been well documented, but Mr Morton said that there will be ‘no slashing and burning’ of services or staff in order to cut costs.
As across the whole NHS, changes will be made that will probably result in less people being employed at the hospital in future years, but these are more likely to be as a result in changes in the practice of medicine, with an increasing emphasis on outpatient services and care in the community.
And though money does need to be saved, Mr Morton said that this will be done so it ‘does no harm to the service we deliver and the experience patients have.’
“Services will change and they should change, but they should change for the right reasons,” he said.
“Our ethos should be that when people need acute care, they are here, they get it, they get fantastic care, we treat them well and then we move them out to home or care closer to home.
“There are likely to be less facilities in a hospital tomorrow than there are today. That will have a knock-on effect on staff numbers working in the hospital.”
One of the things that Mr Morton said he has been most impressed since coming to King’s Mill is the staff.
He said: “The staff have been great. They always are at an organisation in distress. They keep it on its feet.
“We have a really committed staff wanting to do their very best and a public who have a lot of affection.
“The hospital is held in high affection by the local population - the feedback is overwhelmingly positive so we are getting that right.”
Indeed, it is not the quality of services provided at King’s Mill that are of concern to Monitor, but issues of governance and finance.
Mr Morton said that internal structures are being changed and clinical performance is being elevated to the top of the agenda, with new mechanisms put in place that would pick up any potential problems with a particular service earlier on.
A review of board governance has also been carried out and new board members will be appointed. Though he has only been in post three months, Mr Morton said that he can see improvements already.
“I believe the organisation has started to turn,” he said.
“I think there’s a spirit of optimism that we are moving in the right direction.”