The must-read stories and debate in health policy and leadership.
How should you react if your hospital’s roof is in danger of falling in with the potential to injure or even kill staff and patients? Few chief executives would feel it is something to underplay and most would be advocating for money to put it right or even replace the hospital if that seems a better use of money.
But Caroline Shaw, The Queen Elizabeth King’s Lynn Hospital Foundation Trust’s chief executive, was apparently regarded by NHS England’s media team as taking a “sensationalist tone” and “being very vocal” in discussing the roof, according to emails released by the Department of Health and Social Care. The QEH is one of a number of hospitals with reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete roofs which are said to pose “significant safety issues.”
Ironically, the emails — released under the Freedom of Information Act to the Eastern Daily Press — were part of the planning for a visit to the hospital by then health and social care secretary Matt Hancock, at which the roof repairs were discussed.
In 2019, Ms Shaw warned “minor fixes and repairs” were no longer enough. Earlier this year, the trust had to evacuate its critical care unit and insert props in its roof. The potential for a “catastrophic failure” of the roof is also on the trust’s risk register.
Ms Shaw’s openness about the issues may have blotted her copybook with NHSE, but it is hard to see how she could have acted otherwise given this assessment.
What Mark did next
Mark Britnell came close to nabbing the NHS England top job. He was among the final three candidates jostling to succeed Lord Simon Stevens, but ultimately lost out to Amanda Pritchard.
Now, he has been appointed chair of a new global advisory committee at the Australian health tech firm Beamtree, where ex-NHSE director Tim Kelsey is chief executive.
Although its full membership has not yet been revealed, Beamtree said the committee will provide “advice on strategies and policies,” while “promot[ing] best practice and innovation in health data”.
It represents a major coup for Beamtree given Mr Britnell’s reputation. A senior partner at KPMG, he also previously led University Hospitals Birmingham Foundation Trust and was once director-general at the Department of Health and Social Care.
Meanwhile, Mr Kelsey co-founded UK data firm Dr Foster in 2000 before becoming NHSE’s national director for patients and information.
Beamtree will likely hope this influence pays dividends over time, as it opens a new London office and continues to further its reach abroad.