Hospital boss pledges improvement

THE new chairman of a Suffolk NHS trust which has debts of nearly £12m has promised to turn its financial fortunes around without patient care suffering.

By Graham Dines

THE new chairman of a Suffolk NHS trust which has debts of nearly £12m has promised to turn its financial fortunes around without patient care suffering.

Mike Brookes, former chairman of Essex Strategic Health Authority, started work yesterday at Ipswich hospital NHS trust and said Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt's controversial reform agenda was “absolutely right.”

Ms Hewitt, who has refused to bail out overspending trusts and told them to “live within their means,” will be delighted to hear that Mr Brookes has promised to get “a complete grip on the hospital's sources of income and expenditure”, insisting: “We cannot carry on spending more than we earn.”

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He said: “We must re-energise the system and the way we operate. We must reduce costs, improve efficiency and create an efficient organisation.”

The Health Secretary was right to insist that NHS trusts should reform and spend money wisely within its budgets, said Mr Brookes. Funds for each hospital and trust were allocated according to a national formula which was a fair and reasonable process.

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But he said the people of east Suffolk had nothing to fear as Ipswich hospital went into recovery. Services provided at Ipswich were of the “highest quality” by some of the top specialists in the country and the hospital's reputation would not jeopardised as the books were being balanced.

“Clinical reputation is of a very high quality. Inpatient and outpatient services have improved as have accident and emergency waiting times.”

He said the hospital had invited in financial support teams to work with the trust board and the hospital's management team.

“We are determined to turn around the deficit as soon as possible and we hope to meet the March 31 deadline set by the Secretary of State,” said Mr Brookes.

He declined to criticise the outgoing chairman Christine Smart or the non-executive directors of the trust for the £11.9m deficit the trust faced. “I am looking to the future when the recovery programme has been completed and the books are balanced.”

Mr Brookes had a distinguished career with the Ford Motor Company in Dagenham, retiring in 1994 as director of European transportation and material planning.

He is a former chairman of the Association of Essex authorities, which covers all local government and public services such as police and fire authorities, and served as chairman at Southend Hospital and South Essex health authority before becoming chairman of Essex Strategic Health Authority.

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