University Hospitals Birmingham Foundation Trust is to partner with a struggling FT more than 150 miles away in a bid to help the organisation make desperately needed improvements.

The partnership with Medway FT follows similar “buddying” arrangements between the Birmingham FT and both George Eliot Hospital Trust and Burton Hospital FT.

All three trusts were put into special measures almost a year ago. Medway has made particularly slow progress: its chair and chief executive resigned at the beginning of the year and were replaced with interims appointed by Monitor.

Medway interim chair Christopher Langley told the board meeting yesterday that the trust had asked Birmingham for support.

He said the “partnership” would last 12 weeks and was “designed to assist with the longer term viability and stability of Medway as a foundation trust and the main NHS provider for the local population of the surrounding area”.

During that period senior Birmingham staff would visit the trust to shadow, observe and advise where necessary, he said. After 12 weeks a report will be presented to the board identifying Medway’s issues.

The meeting heard the trust had been about to appoint consultancy firm Deloitte before the arrangement was agreed with Birmingham.

Mr Langley confirmed to HSJ that Medway was paying the Midlands trust for its support, but declined to give details due to commercial confidentiality.

Birmingham chief executive Dame Julie Moore has been one of the most outspoken advocates of the concept of NHS hospital chains, where high performing organisations take over the running of challenged ones.

Asked whether that could be the future for Medway, acting chief executive Phillip Barnes told HSJ that chains were still a “theoretical concept”.

He said: “I think the future strength of healthcare for the Medway and Swale populations will require a strong partnership with others and that’s inevitably going to involve one of the large and successful foundation trusts. The organisational form that underpins that is less important.”

When it was put into special measures following the Keogh review of trusts with high mortality rates in July, the trust was initially buddied with East Kent University Hospital FT.

Dr Barnes said the arrangement had been focused on supporting the trust to improve its use of data and was ongoing.

He added: “UHB are national, if not world leaders, in terms of use of information and data as well as clinical efficiency; these are two areas we desperately need assistance with.”

Medway board overhaul brings in top paid executive

Medway Foundation Trust’s board has now been completely replaced since the Keogh review took place more than a year ago.

Yesterday it was announced Phillip Barnes, who joined the trust in September as medical director, has taken over as acting chief executive of the trust from Monitor appointed interim Nigel Beverley.

Tim Bolot, previously interim finance director at South London Healthcare Trust, has been bought in as interim finance director. He will also be responsible for the Medway’s transformation project.

Mr Bolot, who was previously paid a rate equivalent to £3,000 a day at South London, replaces David Meikle who retired in May.

Director of organisational development and communications, Raj Bhamber, also left the trust last month. Chief nurse Steve Hams, who joined the trust in June last year just before the Keogh review was published, is the longest serving member of the board.

At yesterday’s board meeting, interim chair Christopher Langley declined to confirm whether the trust was paying Mr Bolot the previous rate of £3,000 a day. Mr Langley’s consultancy firm is being paid a fee of £12,000 a month plus 10 per cent expenses for his own “one or two days a week” role.

A spokeswoman for the trust Mr Bolot had been appointed as part of a “project to improve the financial and clinical performance of Medway” and to address the “serious issues” faced by the trust.

She added: “Tim is an experienced healthcare restructuring and turnaround specialist and has worked on a number of high profile engagements in the public and private sectors. We are confident that his expertise will assist us in continuing to deliver the important services our local communities need.”

Mr Beverley was originally due to stay at the trust until August. The press release announcing Dr Barnes’ appointment said Mr Beverley had “other commitments that preclude a continuation of this contract”.  A spokeswoman for the trust declined to comment further but confirmed Mr Beverley was not being paid until the end of his contract.

Dr Barnes told HSJ his appointment reflected the need for some stability at the trust.

He said: “We are a very challenged trust… with so much going on actually having a little bit of stability is very important for staff and patients.”