Belfast Telegraph

Poots makes Assembly Statement on Northern Trust

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The Northern Health and Social Care Trust faces difficult challenges ahead and will receive intensive support to improve.

That was the message from Health Minister Edwin Poots today as he delivered a Statement to the Assembly on the report of the Turnaround and Support Team into performance at the Northern Trust and announced measures to drive improvement.

He said: “The Trust has faced challenges since its establishment in April 2007. Despite the support measures which had been put in place previously, there were no signs of sufficient improvement in waiting times in the Trust’s emergency departments. It was in light of these concerns, and a request from the Chief Executive for further support, that the decision was taken to appoint the Turnaround and Support Team.”
Under its terms of reference, the Turnaround and Support Team was asked to take forward the work in two phases, with Phase 1 focusing on the analysis of the challenges facing the Trust and its ability to deliver on services commissioned; and Phase 2 focusing on turnaround and support in light of the findings of Phase 1.

The Minister said: “I have now received the Report from the Turnaround Team detailing the findings of Phase 1 of the Review which included an analysis and assessment of the challenges faced by the Trust and its ability to deliver on the services commissioned taking account of previous reviews and their implementation and drawing on information about similar providers elsewhere.

“Given the need to reduce waiting times in relation to unscheduled care, the review examined performance at the Trust’s Emergency Departments and has identified specific areas and aspects of the work of the Trust, and its relationships with other providers of health and social care where improvement is required. The report provides the Team’s assessment of leadership capacity at the Trust and the changes necessary to improve performance.

“The analysis has identified that Northern Health and Social Care Trust is in a poor position and requires intensive support to improve. It is reassuring to note that the Team concluded that the Trust can be turned around. That is essential to improve the patient care and experience at the Trust. However support needs to be provided to enable it to do so.”

The Minister told the Assembly that the report makes five distinct recommendations. They are to:

i. Enhance the leadership capacity at NHSCT and empower clinicians to lead change;
ii. Ensure support to deliver an Improvement Plan in three phases;
iii. Gain assurance that Governance and Quality systems are robust;
iv. Gain assurance that mortality data is robust; and
v. Put in place a performance framework that will ensure delivery of the Improvement Plan and contains clear consequences for non delivery, alongside incentives for delivery.

Mr Poots told Assembly members it was vital to move forward with the phased improvement plan. He said: “Specifically the report recommends a three-phased improvement plan. Phase 1 has three separate components covering: operational delivery of services at Antrim hospital; operational delivery of services at Causeway hospital; and modernising Primary and Community Care and Older People’s Services.”

“Phase 2 of the Improvement Plan will involve developing clinical networks and integrating clinical teams with devolved accountability. The outcome for Phase 2 should be that clinical services be fully integrated and aligned to populations with an accountability framework in place to manage resources and agree priorities for Service Review. Phase 3 will involve a systematic programme of Service Reviews to implement Transforming Your Care. The outcome for Phase 3 should be systematic delivery of the changes needed in line with the strategic objectives of Transforming Your Care.

“Initially the key element of the work now will be delivery of Phase 1 of the Improvement Plan. It is anticipated that this phase of improvement will be completed within six months. “

The Minister told Assembly members that he was determined to see that the Trust improved. “I do not underestimate the scale of the task involved. The over-riding consideration is the need to put the quality of patient care at the top of our prioritie s for Health and Social care. I am determined therefore that improvements are made at the Trust. That is not just in the interests of patients but also in the interests of the staff who work there.”

The Minister said that there were already some signs of improvement at Antrim and Causeway hospitals and that this was to be welcomed. The Northern Trust has already put in place a number of measures aimed at improving operational delivery including: a joint-partnership between GPs and professional leads to strengthen the clinical voice in the design and delivery of services; and daily performance metrics which have already had an impact on patient flow. Initial figures indicate a significant improvement in the level of 12 hour breaches at the Trust with 82 in May compared to 466 in April.

The Minister told MLAs: “I have stated previously my appreciation for the professionalism and continuing dedication of the staff at the Trust who want to provide safe high quality services to their patients and clients. Clinicians must be at the centre of the improvement process. I also recognise the commitment and determination shown by the previous and the new management teams and I want the Department, HSCB and PHA to work with the leadership in the Trust to ensure that the actions we are now taking are fully effective in securing change. I am encouraged that the Trust will be following a path that is clinically-led and managerially supported. It is essential that the processes now under way are a success in delivering the much needed improvements for the local community.”

Sue Page, who led the Turnaround Team, said: “This report doesn’t minimise the scale of the challenges we found at Northern Trust. Nor does it underestimate the talent and energy of doctors, nurses and other health professionals within the organisation, and in the wider health community, to overcome these challenges in the months ahead.

“Throughout this process we have worked closely with them and listened to their views. We hope we have been helpful in enabling clinicians and others to plan a credible way forward in tackling the problems that have beset the Trust for some time.

“There is still a lot of work ahead and I hope that people will get behind the new leadership as they give doctors and nurses the support and responsibilities they need to make the improvements.”

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