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Details of Wirral investigation

NHS Improvement has announced details of its formal investigation into Wirral University Teaching Hospital Foundation Trust and its own handling of serious concerns raised by trust directors.

The regulator has asked Carole Taylor Brown, an experienced independent investigator, to lead the probe. Ms Taylor Brown was previously chief executive of Suffolk and Suffolk East Primary Care Trust.

Following the investigation, NHS Improvement could take formal regulatory action against the trust.

The investigation will also include a review of how the regulator responded to the concerns by the executive directors in November. The trust’s chief executive, David Allison, left suddenly in December and was offered a six month secondment at NHS Improvement.

After HSJ highlighted the concerns and revealed the extent of allegations against Mr Allison and trust chair Michael Carr, the offer of secondment to Mr Allison was withdrawn.

The announcement came shortly after HSJ reported on leaked documents that showed doctors reported high levels of bullying and “disconnect” from management, and claimed Mr Allison dismissed a proposal to appoint clinical leaders, saying it would happen “over my dead body”.

The impact on patients of NHS ‘squabbling’

Delays in patients getting the right equipment they need is not a new issue for the NHS. The concerning thing about the case uncovered by HSJ this week is the patient in question was stranded in a specialist spinal injury unit bed for five months because of such delays.

There are just nine specialist spinal injury units in England, and delays in discharging patients from these units will have a knock on effect on those needing admission. For every patient stuck in a specialist spinal injury bed, there will be other patients left waiting in a general acute bed not able to begin their rehabilitation.

There were a catalogue of delays experienced by the patient in our story but the main blocks were the fights between NHS organisations over who should be responsible for sourcing and funding his equipment.

Aside from the fact that there is a vulnerable person suffering because of the “squabbling” (in the words of the Spinal Injuries Association), there is also a real cost to the NHS attached to these delays. While it is difficult to quantify how much a community care would cost for a patient with spinal cord injury, a non-ventilated bed in a SCI unit can cost more than £600 a day. You do the math.