Diary of a Sutton Councillor

Tuesday 16th February 7.30pm

Merton, Sutton and Surrey Joint Health Scrutiny Committee

The main agenda items for this meeting were the Sutton & Merton Primary Care Trust’s Operating Plan, an update on the Explosion at St Helier Hospital and ‘Better Healthcare Closer to Home – Taking Stock.’

 As a matter arising from the previous meeting we had Sue Walker from the Sutton & Merton PCT who was involved in the commissioning of dialysis services to provide information on the two new units opened in Wandsworth and Sutton. We learnt that the service from these new units had been contracted out to specialist companies, but that patients remained under the responsibility of their consultants based at either St George’s or St Helier hospital. As the contracts were on a cost per treatment basis it resulted in savings to the PCT of 10%. Ms Walker answered all our questions comprehensively and frankly. The Chair was aware that some patients using the new units had expressed some dissatisfaction so it was agreed that the committee should investigate the nature of the concerns further and follow up as appropriate.

 We next heard from the Communications Team and Trevor Fitzgerald of the Estates Management Team from the Epsom & St Helier Hospital Trust about the reviews that had taken place following the explosion inside an ambulance on the St Helier Hospital site. The committee heard that the Trust had extensively reviewed its Serious Untoward Incident procedures to see what lessons could be learnt from the incident and had made a comprehensive review of the internal response to the explosion, however it was made clear that the Trust felt that the responsibility for the explosion lay with the London Ambulance Service as the cause of the incident had been within the ambulance. The Committee had heard informally that the fault was leaking transmission fluid in the ambulance engine and the Epsom & St Helier Trust representatives advised that they had only recently received a draft report on the incident from the London Ambulance Service which they were currently reviewing.

I expressed my concern that it had taken so long for the London Ambulance Service to produce a report – it was six months since the explosion, and that the Trust had not been more aggressive in seeking assurances about the safety of the ambulances transporting patients onto their premises. As I assumed that Epsom & St Helier did not have any choice but to use the London Ambulance Service I felt that they needed to be more rigorous about ensuring the safety of their patients during transportation as well as within the hospital building. The representatives insisted that they had chased the report but the London Ambulance Service was regulated by a separate body. Other members expressed similar concerns and the committee agreed to highlight this issue with the relevant strategic bodies. It was noted that the Trust had sought information and assurances from other external bodies which bring vehicles onto the hospital site to ensure their safety and that the Fire Service had been involved in this work.

Bill Gillespie, Chief Executive of the Sutton and Merton PCT (now NHS Sutton & Merton) presented the PCT’s Operating Plan, which was intended as details of how the five year strategy would be implemented. Mr Gillespie spoke of the financial constraints facing the PCT in the next few years and advised that they were facing a deficit of £8-12 million. He advised that the PCT’s aim was to invest more in primary and community care to correct the imbalance of spending on acute care in previous years.

 I was pleased to hear that the plan was still being developed and asked if there had been any progress following my comments at the Sutton Health & Well Being Scrutiny Committee on the lack of consideration of carers within the plan and the failure to use new funding provided under the National Carers Strategy to increase services for carers. Mr Gillespie agreed that the plan had not emphasised sufficiently the work that was planned in relation to carers, but said that this did not mean it was not happening. He also said that an additional £50,000 was now being allocated specifically to benefit carers, but admitted that this fell short of the full £720,000 allocated under the Strategy. He commented on the issue of National Strategies being recommended without account being taken of the additional financial pressures trusts were facing.

For the Better Healthcare Closer to Home (BHCH) item officers had drafted a report from the committee on lessons learnt during the life of the programme with recommendations on how future programmes might be improved. The Surrey member Cllr. Butcher noted that the programme had needed a stronger strategic plan from the outset. I agreed with this and added that I felt there should have been, at the start, a clear vision of an end point for the programme, interspersed with timely interim checks to take stock and ensure that the programme was achievable. I felt that the initial programme had been too open ended and visionary, without sufficient consideration of the practical implications. As a result the programme had rolled on for some time without a clear focus but with the feeling that too much time and money had been expended to let go of it yet. I commended Stephen Waring who had taken over the management of the programme around three years ago and had efficiently managed to turn the vision into concrete plans which are now very near implemention. This was supported by Cllr. Brierly, who also noted Mr Gillespie’s positive contribution.


March 15, 2010 - Posted by | Committee Meeting

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