• Nearly two-third chiefs surveyed satisfied with covid-19 guidance
  • ”The centre are doing a decent job at a very hard time,” says hospital boss
  • Hunt: “No one working harder than Matt Hancock and Simon Stevens right now”
  • Follows some criticism of messages from the centre

The majority of trust chief executives who responded to HSJ’s exclusive covid-19 survey were supportive of system leaders’ guidance in response to the crisis.

The snap survey, completed by 34 trust chiefs over the last 36 hours, laid bare fundamental concerns about shortages of staff, staff testing for coronavirus, private protective equipment, and intensive care.

But the poll suggested local leaders were overall largely supportive of the national response to the crisis so far, which has involved NHS England and Improvement, Public Health England, and the Department of Health and Social Care. Professor Keith Willett, as national incident director, has played a leading role for NHSE/I.

Twenty-one of the 32 (65 per cent) chiefs who responded to the question: “How satisfied are you with the quality and clarity of guidance from the centre on the response to the crisis?” said they were either “somewhat satisfied”, “satisfied” or “very satisfied”.

One chief said they thought “[the centre] are doing a decent job [at a] very hard time”. While others praised both the “impressive pace and detail of the advice”.

It contrasts with some comments made directly by trust chief executives and chairs to HSJ, who have reported receiving sometimes-confusing and challenging instructions from the centre with a lack of support or explanation.

Health select committee chair Jeremy Hunt, who has been critical of major aspects of the government’s response to the crisis, echoed the sentiment that the centre was working hard. He told HSJ: “No one can be working harder than [health and social care secretary Matt Hancock and [NHSE chief executive Sir] Simon Stevens right now. This is a huge effort and everyone recognises that.”

A substantial minority, nine of the 32 chiefs who answered the question (28 per cent), said they were “somewhat dissatisfied” or “dissatisfied” in response to the question about guidance.

Concerns largely centre around speed of communication, inconsistent messaging, especially around PPE and advice around staff testing. One respondent said they were concerned about the “silence on ventilator supply” while a number were critical of the “national machinery” [for being] too slow”.


An NHSE&I spokesman said: “These results show the vast majority of trust leaders are clearly concentrating on playing their part in preparing the NHS for this unprecedented challenge – and doing so admirably – rather than completing surveys.

“NHS staff at all levels are working around the clock to get services ready, including rapidly ramping up treatment capacity within hospitals, and we are supporting them nationally including striking a landmark deal with private care providers, calling up student and recently-retired clinicians to bolster the front line, and supporting the Department of Health as they procure for us the PHE-recommended protective equipment.”

The DHSC were approached for comment.

HSJ sent the survey to trust chief executives on Sunday evening. Thirty-four chief executives filled in the survey, representing around 15 per cent of NHS trust chief executives in England. The survey was closed on Tuesday lunchtime. Some respondents, however, failed to fill in every question. This explains the variation in response numbers for different questions.

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