Hospital chief did not duck questions

READERS may remember that I had a letter published in the Boston Standard on the August 10.

I asked Paul Richardson, chairman of United Lincolnshire Hospital Trust (ULHT) this question: What assurances can you give the people of Boston, and Lincolnshire in general, and the staff at Pilgrim Hospital, that the independent non-executive directors of the trust are effectively scrutinising the decisions of the executive directors and offering advice on how to solve the problems at Pilgrim Hospital, which may have wider county application?

The chairman kindly replied to my letter, and I met him at the Pilgrim to discuss the problems and issues concerning our local hospital.

Mr Richardson assured me that the non-executive directors (NEDs) were effectively scrutinising the decisions of the executive directors, who direct the management of ULHT, including one of their major hospitals, Pilgrim.

He informed me that one of the NEDs, Tim Staniland, is from Boston.

As a member of the public, and also a member of ULHT, (any Lincolnshire resident may apply for membership) I have obviously not observed the NEDs doing their job but the time given to me and the fact that Mr Richardson did not duck any of my questions suggests that the NEDs are fully engaged in solving the problems at Pilgrim, as well as issues to do with ULHT in general, one of the largest NHS trusts in England.

There were three criticisms that the NHS regulator, the Care Quality Commission, made about Pilgrim Hospital: concerns about the management and safety of drugs, that patients’ individual care plans did not have sufficient detail, and patients’ risk of dehydration.

The last concern I have had some knowledge of but I hasten to add not in Lincolnshire.

This meant that at my meeting with Mr Richardson we unapologetically spent a considerable time discussing this issue. I must stress that having three operations at Pilgrim I personally had no complaint about dehydration; although others, I understand, have not had such positive experiences.

An answer to the above problems and others is the introduction of Safety Express Plus, which was first rolled out in Lincolnshire at the Pilgrim.

‘Harm-free’ patients are defined as those without falls, pressure ulcers, catheter acquired infections or venous thromboembolism (VTE). Nationally, in England, the July mean was about 75 per cent while Pilgrim Hospital’s was 87 per cent.

Statistics although essential do not tell the whole story as patients’ own individual experiences and observations by their relatives and friends should also be taken into account.

The issue that has had understandably concerned us all the most was the abrupt withdrawal of nursing and midwifery students from the Pilgrim by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (N&MC) on July 28.

A full and complete explanation is still not in the public domain. These nurses were not employed by ULHT, they were on work experience as it were. Mr Richardson told me that their withdrawal was not due to patient safety.

Since all Bostonians and many others in Lincolnshire crucially rely on Pilgrim Hospital our watchword should be eternal vigilance.

To end on a positive note, the response of Pilgrim Hospital staff to the fairground incident at Skegness on August 30 was by all accounts professional, as no doubt was that of their colleagues in the ambulance, fire and rescue service, and the police.

Police Inspector Terry Bell particularly praised the response to this incident by Pilgrim Hospital and its staff.