NHS Chief Holds Public Meeting On Foundation Trust

The Chairman of the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust has admitted his organisation has to make huge improvements if it is to achieve Foundation Trust status.

At a public consultation meeting held at the Town Hall on Monday, health chiefs gave an update on plans by the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust to obtain Foundation Trust status. The RCHT currently runs Treliske, St Michael’s and the West Cornwall hospitals.

Attendees at the meeting were told by RCHT Chairman, Martin Watts, that they had “no choice” but to aim for Foundation Trust status, otherwise it would be taken over by another trust or service provider from outside the area and he said the RCHT “had no intention of letting that happen.”

Foundation Trusts were introduced by the previous Government as a way to devolve control of the NHS to more locally accountable bodies and over half the hospitals in England have already made the switch.

The trusts are not-for-profit organisations with locally appointed governors and anyone over 11 years of age can become a ‘member’ and have a say in how it’s run.

Martin said that Scilly would be represented by one of two public governors elected in the West Cornwall area and covering a population of roughly 100,000 people. The Council would also have a seat on the Board.


Special Status For Scilly


But attendees at the Town Hall meeting pointed out our special status and how local Co-Op representation had been lost.

Martin conceded that there could be an additional post for Scilly but applicants would be expected to know what the job entailed and go to all the meetings. He would only accept death certificates as a non-attendance excuse, he joked.

RCHT Chairman, Martin Watts

He admitted that the RCHT has had a “troubled history.” At one point, the Trust had £56m in debt, although this is now down to around £25m and Martin says they have an agreement to extend their debt repayment period over 15 years.

The Trust has also been the subject of improvement orders by the Care Quality Commission after the discovery of serious breaches in surgical procedures although, Martin says, he now feels they have turned a corner and are improving rapidly.

However, he said the RCHT will not be able to achieve Foundation Trust without solving its financial and clinical problems.


Appointment Booking System Is “Broke”


The discussion at the meeting was dominated by proposals to change the way medical transport would be reimbursed on Scilly, which we reported on yesterday.

Members of the public also questioned the workings of the booking system for medical appointments, which is supposed to assign suitable times to allow patients to get to and from consultations in a day. Councillor Amanda Martin said that administration staff were supposed to recognise islands’ patients through red stamps on paperwork but that hasn’t happened.

Martin admitted the system is “broke” and says these types of administrative problems have to be fixed.

Martin also heard complaints about the waiting lists for ophthalmology services but said demand had built up over years and is exceeding supply at the moment.

When asked whether, with all the problems at RCHT, it would be better to bring in another trust to run the hospitals, Martin said the Government had recently assessed all remaining non-Foundation trusts and reported that RCHT was travelling in the right direction and were confident it would be able to achieve that goal “sometime in the future.”

After the meeting, Martin told us that RCHT will bid for the community hospitals contract, including St Mary’s, when it’s up for tender in four years time. That contract was awarded to Peninsula Community Health.

He said they didn’t get the contract this time as the GPs didn’t have confidence in them, but hopes that situation will be different in 2015.