First PFI hospital fails to meet local needs

27 Feb 03
The trust that built the first major Private Finance Initiative hospital lacks leadership and has failed to meet the needs of the local community, according to reports this week.

28 February 2003

A Commission for Health Improvement clinical governance review of North Cumbria Acute Hospitals Trust slammed senior management, saying the trust lacked a clear, achievable strategy, while corporate priorities were too narrowly defined. The board of directors failed to instil confidence.

The trust did not have a plan for the creation of an integrated trust for its two sites in Whitehaven and Carlisle, it added.

The Carlisle site has been mired in controversy since the Cumberland Infirmary was opened in April 2000. Unison has led a campaign against the use of the PFI to build the hospital, claiming it cut around 80 beds from the hospital it replaced. Last week chief executive Nick Wood resigned.

The trust was formed in April 2001 out of the merger of two existing trusts. Chi acknowledged that it had inherited difficulties, including a significant budget deficit and cultural friction between its two hospital sites. But the management had failed to overcome these problems, which had worsened.

Unison published its own survey of staff and patients to highlight problems at the Cumberland, including sewage seeping into operating theatres.

Liz Twist, Unison's northern region head of health, said Labour should abandon the PFI. 'When you build a hospital to fit the PFI budget rather than the needs of the local community, you end up with a shoddy service,' she added.

The Chi report does not attribute the trust's problems directly to the PFI, though it lists the initiative among the trust's management challenges.

However, it adds that it did find good practice at the trust, including a system for determining the availability of beds in other hospitals.

Chi chief executive Peter Homa said: 'North Cumbria Acute Hospitals trust faces a significant management agenda, including the continued integration of its two main sites. The trust needs to engage and listen to staff and stakeholders and provide a clear vision and achievable action plan.'

The trust's chair Barbara Cannon said the Chi report was constructive. 'There is no cause for alarm. Concern yes, but alarm no,' she said.


Did you enjoy this article?