NHS Trust Ignored Cuts Warning Over Patient Safety

It has come to light that one of the hospitals who are part of the “Essex Success Regime” Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) responsible for reorganising hospital provision between Southend, Basildon and Chelmsford, had ignored warnings about patient safety.

On 11th October 2017 the reputable ‘Health Service Journal’ published leaked confidential papers showing that in April 2017, the previous Finance Director of Basildon and Thurrock Hospital Trust warned that the Hospital was signing up to savings targets that would jeopardise patient safety and experience.

The Trust, had been discussing accepting a financial target for 2017/18 which would require them to cut a further £5.5 million on top of savings they had already planned.

Rick Tazzini, the then finance director, warned the board of the Basildon and Thurrock Trust that they could not guarantee that patient safety would not be affected by the level of savings being proposed.

The Health Service Journal quotes a memo from Mr Tazzini which states:

“No costed plans have been prepared, yet, to demonstrate how the additional £5.5m savings could be delivered, or the costs to achieve it. The plan, if it exists, which it doesn’t, is therefore highly speculative,”

and continues

“I do not believe that the board can guarantee that patient safety and experience will not be adversely affected by such deep and unplanned savings. I hope I am wrong.”

However, the board ignored Mr Tazzini’s advice and accepted the extreme savings package. Mr. Tazzini is no longer a finance director at Basildon.

Toxic Legacy for current STP plans

The head of the Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals Trust which took this reckless decision was none other than Claire Panniker, who has since been made Chief Executive in overall charge of no less than three Trusts covering South Essex and who is responsible for pushing through the Government’s controversial ‘Sustainability and Transformation Plan’ for this area which also includes both Southend and Broomfield hospitals. The leaked minutes said Ms Panniker was ‘keen to sign up’ to the savings.

Clare Panniker - chief executive of the three hospitals.
Clare Panniker – chief executive of the three hospitals.

The Health Service Journal’s revelations show that the underlying threat to NHS services are still very real and that senior NHS management are determined to push cuts through. It is understood that new plans for changes to hospital provision may be put out for ‘public consultation’ in November this year and there are already rumoured to be brutal acute service reconfigurations across all three hospitals.

Renewed campaign to resist flawed proposals

Current proposals appear, from briefings given both within hospitals and to the campaign by internal and credible sources, to involve re-distributing acute specialisms around the area. All emergency general surgery, for instance, is rumoured to be transferred to Broomfield and the Hyper Acute Stroke Unit at Basildon alongside all other general medical patients. Southend may be set to host cancer and frailty. It is proposed that patients would be transferred around to Basildon or Broomfield if they needed a particular form of treatment.

These plans not only represent a threat to the well-being of patients who face being transferred, but will undermine the provision of the rounded services we all expect from our local general hospital.

Myself, along with my fellow committee members from the Save Southend NHS Campaign, vow to maintain the campaign against cuts to local services which was so brilliantly supported by the community over the original threat to Southend A&E.

© Can Stock Photo / akyavarus

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