Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Top hospitals to act as mentors

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said plans for top NHS managers to help turn around failing hospitals would lead to 'real change'

Top performing NHS managers are to be drafted in to turn around failing hospitals in a move that Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said would lead to "real change".

The 11 hospitals put in special measures in the wake of the scandal over standards at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust and subsequent Keogh Review will be partnered with the best NHS trusts and managers in a scheme that echoes the "super-heads" programme to turn around failing schools.

The high performing hospitals will enter into contracts with the NHS Trust Development Authority or regulator Monitor to support the special measures hospitals. The mentor hospitals will be paid for the work, which will help back-fill management posts according to Mr Hunt, and will have access to a special incentive fund.

The Health Secretary said the plans signalled a change from the past when management consultants would be paid to write reports on failing hospitals. The new method would result in practical changes, he said.

One example is George Elliott Hospital in Nuneaton, which has been placed in special measures and is in "desperate need" of IT improvements. That hospital has been partnered with University Hospitals Birmingham, which Mr Hunt said has one of the best IT systems in the country.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We are very aware that there are risks, but what's the alternative? I think in a situation like this we have a handful of really inspirational leaders and these people are anxious to help us turn around these failing hospitals, they want to play their part.

"I think what we have learnt from the education system where we have had a similar programme in place for decades now... We have learnt that if you get these things right you can actually use the experience, the inspiration, the dynamism, the leadership in good institutions to learn what needs to be done in the weaker ones.

"The alternative in the past has been that you pay a management consultancy a huge amount of money, they come up with a report. The problem with that is it's very easy to say what the problem is, that's never the challenge when you've got hospitals in difficulty.

"The problem is actually making the practical changes on the ground and for that partnering up with another hospital that has done all these changes, that knows what needs to happen, that's the way I think we'll get real change."

Mr Hunt said the scheme was "about leadership, it's about culture, it's about training, it's about a number of other things as well". He added: "To get that right you need to have the right people leading these hospitals and you need to give everyone, all the nurses and doctors on the frontline, confidence that the best people in the business are helping to turn this hospital around."

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