Sacked hospital boss consulting lawyers

SACKED hospital trust chairman Richard Bourne said yesterday he was consulting lawyers about whether to take action over his shock dismissal last week.

Roddy Ashworth

SACKED hospital trust chairman Richard Bourne said yesterday he was consulting lawyers about whether to take action over his shock dismissal last week.

Mr Bourne was fired last Thursday as chairman of the trust that runs Colchester's two NHS hospitals by Monitor, the independent regulator of foundation health trusts.

The regulator said it was unhappy with progress made since the Colchester Hospital NHS University Foundation Trust (CHUFT) found itself in trouble at the beginning of the year.

Colchester General Hospital had run out of beds, leaving ambulances queuing outside its A&E department, patients waiting longer than four hours to see an emergency doctor and a number of pre-booked operations being cancelled.

But speaking exclusively to the EADT yesterday, Mr Bourne said he was surprised at the timing of his dismissal because since those difficulties hit the trust, a recovery plan had been agreed with the regulator, put in place and was on target to succeed.

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“We had a difficult period earlier this year, in January and February, which we acknowledged. We failed both the A&E target and the 18 week operations target. We had more patients coming through the system than we had beds in which to put them.

“It was not entirely our fault - there were issues with not being able to transfer patients to Basildon, and with social care agencies being unable to accept patients - but we accepted responsibility that at least part of the problem was of our own making.

“In March we saw Monitor and, over a period of time, we worked out a one-year recovery plan. We were assisted in that by Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC).

“We then did the things we needed to increase capacity, which was the main cause of the problem.

“We did that. The hospital now has 50 more beds, which are fully staffed, and an additional 150 employees.

“We failed the 18 weeks deadline for a further two periods because instead of chasing targets and sending all those who had missed operations to the back of the queue, we chose to treat more patients to clear the backlog - and this was agreed as part of the plan.”

Mr Bourne said he was surprised to be sacked now, rather than in March, when the problems were at their worst, or at the end of the one year recovery period, had it not succeeded.

He added the trust was currently performing well when compared to others both locally and nationally.

“We were not a trust in trouble, in either financial or clinical terms.

“If you look at our current mortality rate, infection control record, cleanliness and hygiene figures and patient safety performance we are in the middle ranks with most other trusts,” he said.

“I think I was unfairly treated. We were carrying out a plan where we agreed it would take a year to get us back into a sustainable position.

“Monitor had seen that plan and had not objected or taken action against me when they looked at it.

“Before I was dismissed the trust was waiting for PWC to come back and say whether we had succeeded or not and we had invited the National Clinical Advisory Team top review the clinical aspects of our emergency care.

“I would have accepted whatever judgement and conclusions those two bodies had reached. I had undertaken both to Monitor and the trust to resign if we had not properly executed the recovery plan.

“The timing of my dismissal seems to me to be inappropriate.”

Mr Bourne added: “However, the interests of the patients at the hospital clearly come before my own personal situation.”

And he welcomed news that his successor as interim chairman of the trust would be Sir Peter Dixon.

“Sir Peter has a superb track record and I think he will do an excellent job - I wish him every success in the post,” he said.