An American healthcare corporation is being brought in to support five trusts in improving quality and clinical engagement.

  • Five trusts to work with US non-profit firm Virginia Mason from the Autumn
  • £12.5m spend over the five years at non-foundation trusts
  • Programme heavily focused on clinical engagement with management

The health secretary will this morning announce a five year, £12.5m programme to bring in Virginia Mason to five hospital trusts with a combined turnover of more than £2bn.

The trusts are:

  • Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust;
  • Surrey and Sussex Healthcare Trust;
  • Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust;
  • Leeds Teaching Hospitals;
  • and University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire.

Virginia Mason are being paid £9m by the Department of Health, with a further £3.5m set aside to cover costs such as airfares and managing the project.

The programme will see visits from Virginia Mason staff and the training of some staff at each trust on the Seattle based company’s methods and principles.

The tender document for the work (attached, right) said each of the five trusts would receive “five days of provider time to use in [each of] the first two years”.

The document added: “The provider will work with the chosen trusts to identify 2-4 people in each organisation to act as Leaders, including at least one senior leader per an organisation. The exact number will depend on the size and complexity of the trust.

The work will be heavily focussed on clinical engagement and culture, with the tender information stipulating: “if clinical leadership is identified as a deficit that needs to be addressed, the provider will need to help find and vet resources to resolve this.”

Each trust will be expected to establish a “transformation team and board to oversee its work within the programme.”

Virginia Mason will also “develop and embed lean techniques and processes” in 120 members of the TDA team.

The work is being led at the TDA by director of development Dean Spencer.

The DH said the NHS would be “assisted” by tools developed by Virginia Mason, including the Patient Safety Alert System, which authorises any of the organisation’s 6,000 employees “regardless of their job… to file a safety alert any time he or she suspects a potential or real hazard”.

Jeremy Hunt

Jeremy Hunt said Virginia Mason are ‘truly inspirational’

Virginia Mason has also developed electronic dashboards to remind clinicians of specific issues, “for example to undertake a quality review for every critical care patient”.

Jeremy Hunt said in a statement: “I want to make the NHS the safest healthcare system in the world, powered by a culture of learning and continuous improvement.

“The achievements at Virginia Mason over the past decade are truly inspirational and I’m delighted they will now help NHS staff to learn the lessons that made their hospital one of the safest in the world – patients will see real benefits as a result.” 

Virginia Mason chair and chief executive Gary Kaplan said the firm was “honoured” to share “what we have learned about transforming health care and putting patients’ interests first” with the NHS.

Two of the trusts chosen, University Hospitals of Coventry and Warwickshire and Barking, Havering and Redbridge, have significant private finance initiative deals.

A spokeswoman for the NHS Trust Development Authority, which will be managing the project, said the five trusts were chosen from 36 that applied and were selected because they had a workforce and board committed to making significant cultural change.

The tender document said the assessment of which trusts would receive the support was based on: “executives’ sense of cultural impediments to Lean including beliefs about clinicians’ reactions to ‘standard work’ required to reduce waste and improve efficiency, plans they have made or are executing to address cultural impediments they have already identified, the degree to which they believe the consultant doctors and other clinical staff are on the ‘same page’ and share executives’ vision for the future of the trust (and need to improve); and the current state of doctor leadership”.

Bob Alexander, acting chief executive of the TDA, said in a statement: “Since the NHS TDA began, we have focused on helping organisations improve.

The Virginia Mason approach concentrates on ensuring each and every patient gets the safest, best quality care every time. Virginia Mason have demonstrated over the last decade that by getting the quality of care right for each patient this improves productivity and reduces cost through reducing waste.

“Through this partnership, five NHS trusts will eliminate waste and concentrate on the things that add real value for patients and staff, leading to better, safer, more efficient care. They will lead the way in bringing some of the most innovative ways of working from one of the safest hospitals in the world into the NHS.”

BHRUHT chief executive Matthew Hopkins said: “I am absolutely delighted that Virginia Mason has seen how passionate we are about improving care and services for our patients and have agreed to work with us for the next five years.

“This is a real investment in us as an organisation and the population that we serve. I have no doubt that this work will prove invaluable, and I am proud that we will be at the forefront of an initiative which will have benefits for the NHS as a whole.”

Surrey and Sussex Healthcare chief executive Michael Wilson told HSJ: “We run a very good organisation but there is still more to learn. I welcome this because we want to be one of the best hospitals in the country.”