On Monday, 3 June Simon Wright, the Chief Executive of Shrewsbury & Telford Hospital Trust (SaTH) announced he was stepping down. According to the trust he was to “take up a role working with sustainability and transformation partnerships” and was apparently being seconded to Nottingham STP, although this was quickly thrown into doubt.
It was obviously an unanticipated decision. After an unannounced visit the previous Friday by Prof Ted Baker, the CQC’s Chief Inspector of Hospitals, Wright reportedly told a meeting of his consultants that all was well, and he was in it for the long haul.
Campaigners believe he has been pushed out. This might have been because the long drawn out acute hospital reorganisation, Future Fit, is not going well. Unusually, the Secretary of State’s Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) have required more evidence.
They are unconvinced by the clinical model put forward by SaTH that requires the closure of an A&E and downgrading of one of the two district hospitals.
They are visiting Shropshire to investigate and have scheduled a 2-hour meeting with Shropshire Defend Our NHS to review its evidence.
The reason might also be that SaTH was given an inadequate rating by the CQC last autumn. In particular, the organisation’s leadership was picked out as inadequate, and the trust failed on four out of five criteria. Since then, the trust has been placed in special measures, and there have been a further three enforcement notices issued against SaTH.
We can assume that the CQC might be unhappy with the progress made.
The latest news on the maternity investigation will not have helped either. It has just been revealed that Donna Ockenden, leading a review of SaTH’s maternity services ordered by the Secretary of State, is now investigating over 550 ‘cases of concern’ including baby and maternal deaths.
That is over double the number of cases investigated at Morecambe Bay.
SaTH being found guilty and fined by the courts over an asbestos case is probably just the icing on the cake. But sacking the whistle-blower was probably not the most intelligent move.
Just after the fine was disclosed, it came to light that another building had to be closed for 6 months for asbestos removal – the building they spent half a million renovating last year. Just an oversight?
Shropshire Defend had called for Wright’s removal. But it also has campaigned effectively on all the issues which might have forced him out. The Campaign provided significant material for both the CQC and maternity investigations provided by its supporters.
On Future Fit, the five-year battle has put the health bosses on the defensive time and time again. And the evidence provided has been sufficient for the IRP to halt the process at least temporarily.
It is not just in the acute sector that the Campaign has been successful. The CCG have removed proposed cuts to community hospital beds, closure of MIUs, and cuts to multi-disciplinary assessments of older people from their plans.
The reaction of a 600 strong public protest meeting in Ludlow, at which Philip Dunne, the local MP, was literally shaking as he tried to defend the health bosses, has eventually made them decide they could not risk putting these cuts out to consultation.
However, with the Shropshire health economy required to make £51.6 million cuts this year, the Campaign can only try to hold back the tide, without an increase in finance. The latest letter to the Campaign from Philip Dunne (who is Jeremy Hunt’s campaign manager), shows the Campaign’s political pressure is also becoming effective.
For the first time, he has admitted Shropshire needs more money: ‘I shall continue to press for fairer funding for health’.
And the good news for Nottingham is that Simon Wright (whose record in the trust even prompted BBC social correspondent Michael Buchanan to comment that “I doubt there will be many involved in the provision of healthcare in Shropshire who will shed a tear over Simon Wright’s departure,”) has decided not to take up the job there. He is ‘going to spend more time with his family’ instead.
- Based on an article by Pete Gillard, Shropshire Defend Our NHS, in Health Campaigns Together July 2019.