MPs call for Colchester Hospital leadership to be given more time

Colchester General Hospital

Colchester General Hospital

North Essex MPs have said they are hopeful the situation at Colchester General Hospital can be turned around – but warned more issues may yet come to light.

Hospital chiefs declared a major internal incident at the site on Thursday as it neared capacity.

The move, made in the wake of a Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection, meant non-routine operations have been cancelled and extra staff drafted in to try to free up beds in the hospital.

Colchester MP Sir Bob Russell met with health secretary Jeremy Hunt and officials from the Department of Health and watchdog Monitor in the House of Commons late last night.

He said: “The Secretary of State intimated to me that with a ‘new good management team in place’ Colchester Hospital University Trust is moving in the right direction so that it will cease to be in special measures.

“Based on what Mr Hunt told me, it is my belief that the ‘major incident’ will be lifted within a few days.

“While over the years I have received complaints from patients and members of their families about their experiences at Colchester General Hospital, it is fair to say that expressions of gratitude are considerably greater.

“I wish to again place on record my appreciation to the medical and support staff at Colchester General Hospital. I am keen to do what I can to support them. Negativity can be so demoralising.”

He added that the term “major incident” was misleading and “has arguable over-stated the reality of the situation”.

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Bernard Jenkin, MP for Harwich and North Essex, is currently in the USA on parliamentary business, but has remained in touch with hospital management and Mr Hunt.

He called for hospital leaders to be given more time to turn the situation around.

In a statement made last night he said: “The findings of the CQC are a cause for concern, and this does raise questions about how deep-seated problems persist in the culture of the hospital organisation.

“However, we now have these inspections so that we uncover these problems, in a way that did not happen before.

“The hospital leadership has only recently been changed. We must give them time to address these problems.

“I have much more confidence now that they will do so, but as they improve openness within the trust, we must not be surprised if we uncover other concerns.

“We do need to know why it is only an inspection which exposes these difficulties.

“If front line staff know they are over-stretched and priorities are not being met, then the trust should encourage staff to make their concerns known, directly to the top if necessary.

“It is the front-line carers who need the support at this time. The vast majority of patients know that they are wonderful. committed professional people.”

Witham MP Priti Patel, whose constituency includes Stanway, said: “My priority is to ensure the needs of patients are put first and that they can receive high quality treatment in a safe environment.

“It is important the public are aware that the action the trust has taken has been in the interests of patient safety and to address capacity issues. There may be further issues that arise out of the CQC report but the trust is taking the right course of action in view of the circumstances they are in.

“Although there have been some concerning reports in the media, now is not the time to condemn the trust, but to work with them and the Department of Health to improve services. A calm and measured approach to this situation needs to be taken.

“Colchester faces exceptional pressures because of an aging population and all agencies involved in delivering health and care services need to work together in a constructive way to solve this problem rather than pass the buck around.”