Page last updated at 10:34 GMT, Friday, 27 November 2009

Colchester hospital boss sacked for poor performance

Colchester Hospital University Foundation Trust has failed to improve in a number of areas

The chairman of the health trust that runs Colchester's two hospitals has been sacked by the regulator, Monitor, for failing to improve its standards.

Richard Bourne has been removed from his position with immediate effect a day after Monitor stepped in at neighbouring Basildon.

He said he was seeking legal advice on his sacking and insisted that things had improved in recent months.

A patient's group said Monitor was at last calling hospitals to account.

Monitor says the Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust has been under review for the past nine months.

In October, Colchester dropped from an excellent to a fair rating in the annual NHS performance ratings.


Monitor has highlighted higher than normal mortality rates - in 2008 and 2009 there were 12% more deaths than expected.

At last Monitor is doing it's job and not before time. But why have we had to wait yet again for those receiving large amounts of public money to be held to account?
Vanessa Bourne, Patients Association

It says the Trust has also failed on four key targets:

• 18 week target for patient to go from doctor appointment to treatment

• A&E four hour waiting time target

• 31 and 62 day cancer waiting time targets

• MRSA screening

Surveys have shown that patient satisfaction has worsened.

And the Trust has been rated consistently low in 14 out of 19 indicators about children's services.

Monitor's executive chairman, William Moyes, said: "For the last six months we have been meeting the Trust with increasing frequency to point out a whole lot of things that were not up to spec.

"The conclusion we've reached is that under the present leadership they have not been dealing with these issues fast enough to put them right.

"Ultimately this is about making sure the Trust is in a position to identify risks and challenges that affect patient services and then deliver an effective response."

New chairman

The Trust's main acute hospital site is Colchester General Hospital.

It also runs Essex County Hospital in Colchester, which has two wards used for cancer patients, and provides services at Halstead Hospital.

The Trust has refused to comment on the sacking of its chairman but their medical director, Andrew May, said the trust had been implementing improvements since the beginning of the year.

He said: "We are now consistently achieving national standards for key performance targets, such as the four hour A&E and our 18 week Referral to Treatment standards and the most recent and accurate data for our Hospital Standardised Mortality Rate (HSMR) gives a figure of 90.2 for the period April-July (the national average is 100)."

Mr Bourne is being replaced by another foundation trust chairman, Sir Peter Dixon, from Monday.

He is chair of University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH), and will maintain his role there as well.

Mr Bourne said he was seeking legal advice on his sacking: "I was shocked by the decision of the Monitor Board, given the evidence provided to them.

"Their view does not acknowledge the hard work and dedication of the staff who have all focused on the best interests of the patient.

"It is sad that Monitor did not acknowledge that the Trust does not have any significant issues around infection control, hygiene and cleanliness or, indeed, finance."

Vanessa Bourne, spokesperson for the Patient's Association, said: "At last Monitor is doing it's job and not before time.

"But why have we had to wait yet again for those receiving large amounts of public money to be held to account?".

The Liberal Democrat MP, Robert Russell, who represents Colchester, said: "You have to ask what has Monitor been doing if their role has been to monitor this and the situation has deteriorated so badly?

"The notion that one man should take all the rap for all this is something that has to be looked at."

Earlier this month, the outgoing chair Mr Bourne, accused Monitor of being 'grossly unfair' and full of 'intimidation".

In a confidential email to other foundation trusts, seen by the Health Service Journal, Mr Bourne said Monitor's process ignored large amounts of evidence of a favourable nature.

The trust said the email had not been intended for publication.

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