• King’s Lynn in discussions with local college to establish “workforce academy”
  • Trust chief says “radical” workforce plan essential to viability of trust
  • Trust could potentially merge in future but decision is years away, says Caroline Shaw

A struggling district general hospital is in discussions with a local college to establish a “workforce academy” and school of nursing to address its workforce problems, its chief executive told HSJ.

Caroline Shaw, who became chief executive of Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn Foundation Trust in January, said a “radical” workplan was an integral part of securing the trust’s long-term sustainability.

The move would represent a controversial venture into teaching and training by the DGH, with the lion’s share of existing local training programmes offered by Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals FT, which works closely with a number of higher education institutions across East Anglia.

The former Nottingham University Hospitals Trust deputy chief also said the trust was aiming to be out of special measures by 2021. She said a new corporate, workforce and clinical plan would be in place next year as part of this journey.

She said: “Our people plan is probably 10 years behind where other trusts are. We have not thought of things radically and differently.

“When you look at the metrics, people [often] get their first job where they’ve done their qualification. Let’s bring back our own school of nursing. Let’s have a clear pathway from nursing associate to qualified nurse.

“I am asking them to look at managerial and leadership programmes. I have said to the principal [of West Anglia College] ‘Can we have a programme where we train people on the fundamental skills of leadership, NHS management’…

“What I would like is a workforce academy which trains our future workforce whatever job you’re going to do from being a professional midwife or nurse, to administrative posts to maintenance men.”

Ms Shaw said the trust was aiming to have the nursing and midwifery school through the required accreditation process to open a course from September 2021.

No immediate mergers

The small DGH has long posed a conundrum to system leaders. It was placed back in special measures in September 2018 having been lifted out in 2015 after first being put in the regulatory regime in 2013. But its large rural catchment area makes it impossible to close or downgrade to an urgent care centre,

Ms Shaw said she was potentially open to the trust merging or becoming part of a group model – but those decisions would not be made in the immediate future.

“Forget what the [long-term] model is going to be. [The immediate focus is on] bringing the services together, rationalisation, affordability and delivering the best outcomes for patients…

“And eventually, who knows, we may be one organisation, or a group model. But we’re not there yet… I think those decisions are a good three to five years away.”

Ms Shaw cited her three immediate priorities as: addressing the “lack of compassion” shown by staff, a serious issue raised in the trust’s last Care Quality Commission inspection; boosting staff engagement, recruitment and retention; and developing a viable long-term financial plan.

“Because of the issues around quality and lack of compassion, you need an experienced nurse to deal with that. This is why I brought in Libby McManus [who was previously head of transformation at Royal Free London FT].

Despite the trust’s problems in this area and its struggles overall, Ms Shaw said the hospital was “so loved” by patients and staff.

She said her current role would “probably be the most challenging job in my NHS career” and any perception that a rural DGH represented a good place for a first board job was wrong.

She added: “You need to be a seasoned player. The resource, building relationships with teaching trusts and other DGHs [is very challenging]. It’s actually quite good to have been at a teaching hospital so you know how they think [before you become chief executive of a DGH].”