HSJ’s round-up of Tuesday’s must read stories

Sir David’s Pennine way

Sir David Dalton’s already extensive influence in Greater Manchester increased significantly on Tuesday, after he was put in temporary charge of Pennine Acute Hospitals Trust.

He will split his time between Salford Royal Foundation Trust and the troubled four-hospital acute, along with chair Jim Potter.

This comes after the sudden announcement last month that Dr Gillian Fairfield, chief executive of Pennine Acute, was going on secondment to Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust.

The move appears to fit neatly into Sir David’s ambition of a large scale “hospital chain” in Greater Manchester.

Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Foundation Trust are already on board, Bolton FT are flirting with the idea, and suddenly whopping great big Pennine Acute is in his hands.

Sir David has only taken the role on an interim basis, but he even referred to the chain in his quotes (although he prefers to call it a “group”), saying: “I am pleased to be able to support another Greater Manchester trust during this period of change for the region, one of the aims of which is to enable a better, more coordinated way of providing local health services, consistent with the concepts of standardisation of best practice delivered at scale and the potential of creating a group of NHS organisations.”

However, the immediate priority will be to review the initial findings of an inspection by the Care Quality Commission when they are published soon. No doubt this will include sorting out the trust’s accident and emergency services, where standards have dropped severely in recent months.

Whistleblowers expose ‘toxic environment’

HSJ has spoken to six former and current staff from the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman about their concerns over the way public complaints are being handled and the culture of the ombudsman.

Hundreds of new investigations carried out by the NHS ombudsman are “relabelled” assessments and being carried out by staff who face “unachievable” targets in a “toxic environment”, they said.

The whistleblowers claimed PHSO staff tried to warn that rebranding the assessment of complaints as investigations would affect quality and increase workload but they say this was ignored and tougher targets introduced, and this meant the quality of investigations declined. The PHSO insisted it had quality control checks in place to ensure standards were being maintained.

The six, who are a mix of current and former managers and investigators, spoke separately to HSJ but gave consistent accounts of the culture and problems within the service.

Blast from the past

Former health secretary Lord Lansley has written a comment piece for HSJ’s sister title Local Government Chronicle on why the devolution project in areas such as Greater Manchester must succeed, and insists his NHS reforms have made this possible.