Monday, June 25, 2012

A Board Cull and “Creating Barts Health”

Neil Zammett writes
This week I want to cover two very different issues: the news of management changes at BHRUT and a session on ‘Values’ at Barts Health I attended on behalf of Health Scrutiny.
The Cull
Like most people I was very surprised to receive a letter from Averil Dongworth the Chief Executive of BHRUT announcing management changes.  It was not so much the news of changes but the very vague way in which the news was expressed. After a long follow in recording recent management developments presented very positively there was a general statement about members “leaving” the executive team.’
A few days later the Romford Recorder ran a front page article about the “Board Cull”; five executive board members leaving the Trust with a ringing endorsement of the action by a local MP.  In contrast the Ilford Recorder ran a very different story saying that the five executive directors had asked Mrs Dongworth “to make some difficult decisions” and that there was “A lot of shock and upset in the hospital”.
The problem is that we have no specific statement about what has happened which has created a situation where speculation is inevitable.  There is nothing yet on the BHRUT website to confirm or deny the press stories.
The way that events are unfolding does no service to transparency or the truth. It leaves all concerned in a difficult situation, particularly the staff involved-whoever they are.
What we need to know is who is leaving or moving jobs, the reasons why and what interim management arrangements the Trust is making.   And we need to hear this directly from the Trust not via the press.
More on this in due course no doubt, meanwhile:
Creating Barts Health
The values event was part of a series of sessions the Barts Health cultural change team is running to engage staff and others to get feedback on the Board’s values statement. I went along to one of them in the Academic Centre at Whipps representing Health Scrutiny. I counted thirteen people present; two from the security sub-contractor, a number of staff including a former colleague, a hospital chaplain and three members of the patients’ panel from Whipps including the Chair and Vice Chair.
We started off with a presentation led discussion on values which established their importance, “they drive everything we do” and included recordings of two patient interviews, one positive and one not so good. I thought this was a particularly good way of illustrating the issues involved.  It gave a real life feel to the exercise and some of the comments were all too familiar to someone like me who has been a hospital manager.
We then split into groups and listed the sorts of ways in which the indicative values the Barts Health Board had signed up to, ‘Caring and compassionate’, ‘Learning’ and so on could be achieved.
I thought this was good effort on the part of the Trust and everyone present made a contribution. 
One of the more insightful comments from a patients’ panel member was the way in which staffing levels affected the relationship between patients and nurses and midwives ‘I’ve seen them rushed off their feet and it’s hard to chat then...’.  One of the staff made another good point about managers communicating the reasons why things could not be done.
My contribution was about the need for a plan and investment in training.  I also wondered how all of this squared with the £30 million of savings in back office staff the Trust is going to have to make as part of the merger plan.  I guess the real test is whether the Board is prepared to support this type of approach in the longer term or whether it is an opening ’sweetener’ before the realities of their financial situation have to be tackled. 
We shall see, but meanwhile “well done” to the Board for supporting this exercise from the outset.

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