• Former Mid and South Essex STP chief clinician heads to Norfolk STP
  • Ronan Fenton appointed “independent medical director” of STP’s acute plan
  • Dr Fenton oversaw drawing up Essex hospital reconfiguration plans

A senior clinician who led the development of plans for a major acute reconfiguration in Essex has been seconded to the Norfolk and Waveney Health and Care Partnership as its “independent medical director” of its acute services strategy, HSJ has learned.

Ronan Fenton, previously medical director for the Mid and South Essex sustainability and transformation partnership, will take on the unusual role to help senior local clinicians develop their “acute hospitals services strategy” in Norfolk.

Dr Fenton’s brief is to act as an honest broker between the three hospital trusts, which have been trying to develop a comprehensive collaboration strategy for several years across one of the NHS’ most challenging health economies.

The role is for three days a week. He will continue in his role as medical director for Essex and Herts Air Ambulance, a spokeswoman for the Mid and South Essex STP told HSJ.

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital Foundation Trust is the health economy’s tertiary centre, which is also served by district general hospitals Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn and James Paget Hospital FTs.

The large distances and poor transport links between the three trusts prohibit several of the more radical reconfiguration options, like major emergency department downgrades, while both QEHKL and NNUH have long struggled with performance and quality issues.

QEHKL is in special measures and rated inadequate. Norfolk and Norwich is rated requires improvement, but it was only recently pulled out of special measures after a period of sustained significant challenges.

King’s Lynn chief Caroline Shaw said in a recent HSJ interview the three trusts could one day be merged into “one organisation, or a group model [in the longer term]. But we’re not there yet… I think those decisions are a good three to five years away”.

Significant collaborative working across the three trusts has so far been limited to date. They are, however, exploring forming single clinical teams for urology services across all three trusts as well as a single team providing ENT services across NNUH and James Paget.

A STP statement added: “These will be followed by plans for single clinical teams for haematology and oncology working across NNUH and JPUH.

“Once these teams are established next year they will share expertise and equipment across the hospitals. Patients will continue to see the same clinical team in the same hospital as before.”

Dr Fenton said in a statement: “It has been a great learning opportunity over the past three years supporting our clinical teams to develop new models of care and ways of collaborating across the three hospitals and wider system in mid and south Essex.

“Now those plans are moving to implementation, I am really pleased to have the chance to begin a fresh project with colleagues in Norfolk and Waveney, to explore how their system might collaborate to deliver better outcomes for their local communities.”