Princess Alexandra crisis: Harlow MP Halfon questions over £1.6 million spent on “penpushers”

Politics / Wed 19th Oct 2016 am31 11:16am

THE MP for Harlow, Robert Halfon has responded to the news that the Princess Alexandra Hospital is in “special measures” after reaching a general grading as ‘Inadequate” by inspectors, CQC.

Mr Halfon said: “I have seen first-hand that the staff and the management team at Princess Alexandra Hospital work incredibly hard and do an amazing job for Harlow residents. As MP, I get many emails and letters from residents who have had an excellent and caring service from our hospital.

It is important to note, that despite its difficulties, the hospital has several areas of outstanding practice, which include:
· The ward manager for the Dolphin children’s ward has significantly improved the ward and performance of children’s services.
· The tissue viability nurse produced models of pressure ulcers to support the education and prevention of pressure ulcer development in theatres.
· The improvement and dedication to resolve the backlog and issues within outpatients is outstanding.
· The advanced nurse practitioner groups within the emergency department are an outstanding team who work to improve care for their patients.
· The gynaecology early pregnancy unit and termination services are outstanding and provide a very responsive service which meets the needs of women.
· The outcomes for women in the maternity service are outstanding.
· MSSA rates reported at the trust place them in the top quartile in the country.
· The permanent staff who work within women’s services are passionate, dedicated and determined to deliver the best care possible for women.
· The lead nurse for dementia is innovative in their strategy to improve the care for people living with dementia.
· The hospital is exceeding all key cancer diagnosis and treatment targets.

The report also notes that staff in every area of the hospital are rated Good or Outstanding for their level of patient care. However, clearly there are significant difficulties that the management team, nurses, doctors and other staff are working hard to overcome.

There are four major problems that the hospital faces:

1. It has more A&E admissions per head than almost anywhere in the country. The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust has seen 21,919 more patients in 2015/16 than in did in 2009/10, a 27.14% increase over the 5 years.

2. The age of the building means that parts of it are not fit-for-purpose and it needs constant financial assistance just to keep going. Although the Government have given Princess Alexandra Hospital £48.8million extra of capital investment for this since 2010, this is an ongoing problem.

3. The long term future of the hospital needs to be looked at. It needs to be decided whether a new hospital should be built.

4. Recruitment is a massive challenge because of Harlow’s position in close proximity to London and Cambridge. The hospital spends a lot of money on recruitment, but there is still a 50% nurse vacancy rate in some wards which means that agency nurses have to be brought in.

“The Government is investing in our hospital. Their budget for care this year is £200 million, which is an increase from the previous year. There is an additional £8 million budget this year for capital investment, £4 million of this is creating an extra 35 beds for patients. On top of this, since 2010, there has been an upgraded eye clinic, a new kidney dialysis unit, a children’s A&E centre and an upgraded maternity unit. This year, Princess Alexandra Hospital is also receiving an extra £800,000 to cover increased pressure on A&E over the winter. While the hospital has an ongoing budget deficit, the Government covers this. Nevertheless, there is always a need for more funding, which, of course, I will continue to work hard to secure from the Government.

Nationally, the Government is spending an additional £10 billion a year in real terms on the NHS, the amount that NHS England requested. This money will allow the NHS to offer 800,000 more operations and treatments and spend £2 billion more on new drugs. The Government has already delivered an extra 10,000 doctors since 2010 and it is committed to increasing the staff available to the NHS by 80,000 by 2020.

“However, it is not just a question of how much money can be given to the NHS, but also how it is spent. I have real concerns about the money spent by regional NHS bodies on consultancy. Many hundreds of thousands have been spent on management consultants, with £1 million going to PwC and over £600,000 to Boston Consulting Group alone. I am not clear why this much money needs to be spent when the work could have been achieved by NHS officials and by speaking to the hard working doctors and nurses in our hospitals who best understand the problems they are facing and what their patients need. We need an urgent inquiry into how much money has been spent on these management consultancies and why.

“I am also not happy with the support the independent health body, NHS England, has offered to Princess Alexandra Hospital. Not only did they fine Harlow Hospital £1.8 million earlier this year while it was already struggling but not one senior NHS England official has visited Harlow Hospital since the arrival of their current chief executive over two years ago”.

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