Councillors said the blame for shortcomings found in an official inspection of a health trust must lay at the top.
There were calls for the chief executive and chairman of North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust to resign at a Hartlepool council audit meeting yesterday.
The Audit and Governance Committee listened to a presentation by trust representatives about how it had reacted to 14 ‘must do’ areas for improvement following last summer’s inspection by the Care Quality Commission.
The trust as a whole was rated as Requires Improvement as well as both hospital sites at Hartlepool and North Tees in Stockton.
Coun Ray Martin-Wells, chairman of the committee, said to the trust: “We were told that Hartlepool A&E was unsafe so the only measure the trust could take to make it safe was to move it to North Tees and here we are ‘requires improvement’. We are no better off except we don’t have an A&E and that infuriates the public.”
Coun Rob Cook said: “The overall control for the NHS trust comes back to Foster and Garvin and that board of directors. They should resign from their positions.”
Others claimed the trust was in “meltdown” and a “sinking ship”. The CQC inspection highlighted concerns around urgent and emergency services at North Tees, a lack of suitably qualified staff in some areas including Hartlepool hospital’s rehabilitation unit, and policies for managing and storing medicines and hand hygiene not always being followed. The trust was asked about plans for patients to have surgery at Hartlepool while North Tees undergoes a £25m upgrade. Julie Lane, associate director of nursing, patient safety and quality, said high risk patients would not be operated on and most would not need to stay overnight afterwards.
Issues are being addressed say trust chiefs
The hospital trust said each of the areas flagged up by the CQC for improvement had been taken in hand and included in an action plan.
Trying to reassure the committee about the original inspection, Julie Lane stressed that in 85 different areas of the trust 65 were rated Good and 19 Requires Improvement.
A presentation outlined how staff shortages in particular areas had been addressed, and policies around management of medicine had been updated and regular audits are carried out.
The trust said it was concentrating on recruiting and training more ‘home grown’ nurses.
Responding to criticism of the trust leadership Ms Lane said: “Leadership goes from ward to board, it is right the way through. We are doing whatever we need to do, putting in extra resources.
“The CQC are comfortable with our action plan. It will get us from Requiring Improvement to Good.”