Councillor claims NHS 'isn't working effectively' after vital targets missed

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust was criticised by a county councillor after it missed a number of key targets.

By James Robinson
Thursday, 7th April 2022, 10:44 am
Dr Jeremy Rushmer, medical director at the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital near Cramlington.

At Wednesday’s meeting of Northumberland County Council’s Health and Wellbeing Overview and Scrutiny Committee, councillors were presented with a report detailing the trust’s safety and quality priorities during 2021/22.

Dr Jeremy Rushmer, the trust’s executive medical director, said that while Covid-19 had made a significant impact on the trust’s five year plan to improve clinical care, but added that the trust remained ahead of others around the country.

He said: “It has been difficult. Covid has had a significant impact because we have had to redeploy a number of staff, including staff that would have been in quality improvement roles.

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“We remain committed to improving despite the pandemic.

"We have failed to meet targets that we set ourselves, but I would like to point out that in terms of elective care and four hour waits in Emergency Departments, we are comfortably the leading provider trust in the country.

“We are ahead of the pack but we are not where we want to be.”

The report presented to councillors showed Northumbria had missed out on targets in referral to treatment, diagnostics, access to cancer services and emergency targets, as well as improving access times into children’s mental health services.

A target of on decreasing response times for advice and guidance requests was also missed while a goal of 77.5% of wards using 4AT tests to detect delirium was also missed, with the figure standing at 74% for Q3 of 2021.

The trust did partially meet targets in improving the timeliness of observations when managing unwell patients, and successfully rolled out a new system to supply and administer medication – although the incompletion of an audit met that target was only partially met.

In terms of targets met, the trust successfully increased the percentage of virtual outpatient appointments, piloted new measures to reduce health inequality in a selected speciality, and rolled out the new “PINCH ME” training programme to two additional wards and two services.

But Coun Georgina Hill was critical of both the trust and the NHS as a whole due to the missed targets.

She said: “By any objective standard, that’s really poor. If you were sitting with your boss at work with these targets you would be out the door.

“Seven out of the 13 targets have been missed and of the most important targets only three have been met and they, although important, are the least important.

“Is that typical of other trusts? What are the repercussions? Do we shrug our shoulders? Any patient, anyone reading that would be worried.”

Dr Rushmer replied: “We did set ourselves a target of returning to the national standard. That was our ambition – no trust has achieved those ambitions in the country.

“The reason I can tell you that is because we are currently ranked top of NHS provider trusts in the country, and we’re in the top quartile for our cancer performance.

“It is because of the ambition. Our comparisons are good.”

Coun Hill said: “The concern is regarding the whole National Health Service rather than just the trust. Other trusts are even worse, so there is a problem wider than the NHS.

“We can’t keep just shrugging our shoulders at this national problem; that the National Health Service isn’t working effectively. That’s the only conclusion.”

Dr Rushmer agreed with the remarks, but explained that Covid rules had made a significant on performance due to late cancellations caused by positive cases.

He added: “We are not operating in an ideal environment. I’m agreeing with you, we can do better and we are keen to help show the way nationally.”