WORKFORCE: The chair of James Paget University Hospitals FT has resigned after pressure from local politicians and GPs, claiming he was “seen politically as a hindrance to improving patient care”.

Last week an anonymous “whistleblowing letter”, claiming to be from the GPs that make up the Health East clinical commissioning group, to health secretary Andrew Lansley was read out in Parliament by Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey.

It said the doctors had “lost confidence in the ability of its leadsership to correct its current failings”, following three negative inspections from the Care Quality Commission. The letter said the GPs “worries are shared” by local MPs Peter Aldous and Brandon Lewis, as well as Dr Coffey.

Dr Coffey told the House of Commons trust chair John Hemming should “consider his position”.

Mr Lansley is set to visit the FT tomorrow. He has said he will discuss “these critical issues” with the trusts management.

The trust released a statement on Monday rebutting claims it had not responded to Care Quality Commission concerns and describing a comparison drawn with Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust in the letter as “scandalous”. It also said the “whistleblowing letter” had not come from the clinical commissioning group’s board.

But today (Wednesday) a further statement said Mr Hemming was to resign with immediate effect after eight years at the trust.

Mr Hemming said: “I am proud to have been a very small part of what the James Paget has achieved over the past eight years. Patient safety and patient care has
always been at the centre of our agenda and we have seen advances in medicine and surgery that have improved outcomes and life expectations. We have a workforce that is dedicated and professional, that strives to do the best for patients…

“I am standing down as chairman as I am seen politically as a hindrance to improving patient care for the vulnerable and elderly, which is unacceptable to me. I hope that my successor will be able to accelerate the improvements we are making to ensure the trust achieves all the required outcomes for CQC inspection.”

He added: “The adverse publicity is affecting the trust, causing patients and the local population to have unnecessary concerns about the quality of care in the Paget.

“The trust has an excellent low mortality rate, in the top 14 trusts in England, registers highly in inpatient surveys and on our local real time patient feedback tools and receives many letters from visitors praising the level of care and comparing it favourably to their local hospital. It has been a privilege and an honour to serve the trust.”

Lead Governor Hugh Sturzaker said: “John has informed the Governors that he felt he had no option but to resign in the best interests of the hospital, patients and staff. As elected representatives of the local community the Governors voiced their unanimous support for John and did ask him to consider staying.”