PERFORMANCE Commission refers first trust for special measures

Published: 16/12/2004, Volume II4, No. 5936 Page 6

A catalogue of failings at the beleaguered Mid Yorkshire Hospitals trust cannot be resolved without government support, according to a damning report by the Healthcare Commission.

In an unprecedented move, the commission has called for health secretary John Reid to intervene and put the trust on 'special measures'.

It follows an investigation by the commission which found evidence of high death rates, poor clinical outcomes and deteriorating relationships between consultants and surgeons at the trust. The commission said it had 'serious concerns about the extent of the problems faced by the trust and its capacity to resolve them'.

A massive deficit, predicted by the trust to be around£40m by the end of the financial year, blamed on two difficult mergers, caused managers to take their eye off patient care, the report added.

It follows a controversial announcement last week that the Department of Health would provide an undisclosed level of 'financial support' to help Mid Yorkshire because of its 'exceptional circumstances'.

The Audit Commission also published a report this week predicting that health services in West Yorkshire would be at least£70m in debt by the end of March, and claimed Mid Yorkshire's could reach£48.7m.

Healthcare Commission director of operations Marcia Fry said it was the first time it had referred a trust to the secretary of state for special measures.

'There is a whole range of things if you go back over the history [of the trust]. You have a couple of mergers with strong local feeling from people about keeping services, you have got conflicting pressures on the trust, you have got financial pressures and a new build. What happens is that management's eye concentrates on financial problems and waiting-time problems to the detriment of broader quality issues, ' said Ms Fry.

Mid Yorkshire chief executive John Parkes, who took up post in April, said he was 'genuinely pleased' to receive the report and would be establishing an external group to monitor how it implemented its action plan.

Doctors at Mid Yorkshire Hospitals trust's neighbours are angry that they have not received similar help.

The senior medical staff committee at Leeds Teaching Hospitals trust received a letter from health minister John Hutton on 30 November saying it 'would send the wrong messages about responsible financial management' if the DoH cancelled its£30m debts.

Mr Hutton added: 'We cannot simply wipe the slate clean in Leeds without taking resources from elsewhere in the NHS.' On the same day, the DoH confirmed it would providing 'financial support' for Mid Yorkshire Hospitals trust.