A former lead governer of the trust recommended for special measures last week has accused its senior management of repeatedly brushing aside his and fellow governors’ concerns.
Ken Rogers, who quit as lead governor at East Kent Hospitals University Foundation Trust six weeks ago, said he had “got fed up with banging my head against a brick wall” and felt managers were “not listening to patients’ views”.
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His decision to step down after four years in the role came after the trust made a controversial decision to withdraw outpatient clinics from some locations, a move he described as “the final straw”.
He accused the senior management at East Kent of “arrogance” and having “lost touch” with staff.
“When you talk to staff it is clear that some of them have never seen the senior management come round,” he added.
“I was surprised how bad it was, although we had, and I had, on numerous occasions banged the board table and said it is not good enough.”
According to Mr Rogers, the trusts’ governors:
- were not informed about a plan that would reloctate one of the trust’s three major hospitals, Kent and Canterbury;
- repeatedly questioned key performance figures which “magically came out of the air”;
- raised issues about staffing shortages and services, and demanded improvements – but were often told there was not a problem; and
- were unaware the CQC report was so damning until the last minute.
While governors are not involved in the day to day running of the hospital, they are tasked to hold non-executives to account for the performance of the board.
They are also expected to approve any significant transactions and represent the interests of trust members and public.
Mr Rogers questioned how governors could fulfill these roles when they often had to accept assurance handed down by trust boards.
East Kent’s governors had been very challenging, he said, a point he claimed the CQC had recognised.
“There are some trusts in the country which are very open, honest and transparent.
“There are other trusts that still believe the governors are a necessary evil,” he added.
“I think if foundation trusts are to continue the powers of the governors need to be looked at.
“To say that governors hold non-executives to account is fine if a trust is open and transparent, but if you have one with issues then governors need the power to say we need to be able to go in and look at it.”
A spokesman for the trust said it “always welcomes and values the input from its governors and encourages them to ask challenging questions”.
As the CQC report had been embargoed, it was shared with the governors “at the appropriate time”, he added. Governors are to due to be fully briefed tomorrow.
The CQC’s report recommended the trust be put into special measures, after rating two of the its three acute hospitals and the trust overall as inadequate.
Its report pointed to safety issues and a disconnect between staff and senior management.