PERFORMANCE: The outgoing chief executive of Heatherwood and Wexham Park Foundation Trust has said it will take “years” to fix the organisation, and predicted that a forthcoming Care Quality Commission inspection would find continuing failings in some aspects of care.
Philippa Slinger, who leaves the trust in March to become Care UK’s managing director for secondary care, told HSJ Heatherwood and Wexham Park could never have been fully turned around between now and July, when it is set to be taken over by Frimley Park Foundation Trust.
She spoke to HSJ before it was announced that Monitor had appointed Mark Davies, the former chief executive of Imperial College Healthcare Trust, to “provide assurance that any issues preventing the delivery of good quality care” to the trust.
“People have this view that there will be a time in the very near future when Heatherwood and Wexham Park is fixed, and there won’t be,” Ms Slinger said. “There will be a time in the future when it is better than it was, and it will keep getting better, and I think there will be a time in a couple of years when it is as good as or better than most [trusts] you’ll find.”
The takeover by Frimley Park means that the services’ long-term future could now be assured, which in turn means services could be developed and planned for the long term.
“Some of these services have just stood still for a good few years because nobody knows where were going, and what the future is,” Ms Slinger said. Staff in “any other acute trust” would have a clearer idea of what would happen to their organisation’s vascular, stroke, and maternity services over the coming years than those at Heatherwood and Wexham Park, she added.
The CQC is inspecting Heatherwood and Wexham Park for the third time in a year this month. Its previous two visits, in May and October 2013, resulted in enforcement action after significant failings were uncovered around issues including patient dignity, nursing culture, cleanliness and care planning. However, the report into the October inspection recognised some improvements had been made since May.
“I’m expecting that we’ve got a bit better again,” Ms Slinger said. “These things don’t get fixed quickly. I would absolutely love to be compliant on everything, but am not going to be.
“I want to be less non compliant then when we were in October – as long as I continue to see improvement then I know we’re on the right lines.”
Ms Slinger told HSJ she chose to leave Heatherwood and Wexham Park before it merged with Frimley Park because, “I was offered an opportunity to do a job that I felt I could do, in a company that I have respect for, and as I’m going to be out of a job it seemed to be too good an opportunity to not pursue”.
At Care UK, her job will be to manage the organisation’s 11 independent sector treatment centres. This could involve working with NHS commissioners to change their role in local health economies, Ms Slinger said.
“It is NHS care they are providing so they need to be seen in that context.
“For a number of the ISTCs the contracts were due to come to an end – at the moment all of those contracts are through commissioners, none are in partnership with other trusts, and everyone is feeling the squeeze on elective care because non elective is taking up the capacity in the hospitals.
“I think there’s a whole conversation about what specialties are they are going to do, what are they going to be sustainable at, how are they going to work with their local health trusts and partners to support the local system.”
Interview with HSJ