Health regulator Monitor has put its own “troubleshooter” into Peterborough City Hospital to power the fight to cut emergency patients waiting times.
The regulator has parachuted in high-flying health veteran Sue Lewis because of the ongoing failure by the £289-million hospital to meet accident and emergency target times.
The trust is expected by the Department of Health to ensure that 95 per cent of patients at the emergency department are seen within four hours. But health regulator Monitor says the trust has consistently failed to meet the target.
Now it says it is taking further action to improve accident and emergency services for patients.
A spokeswoman for Monitor said Sue Lewis, a nurse and former chief operating officer with more than 34 years of NHS experience, had been appointed as an oversight director at the trust. She will be based at the trust in a part-time capacity and will work with the trust’s leadership, providing expertise and support while also holding it to account to ensure improvements are being made.
The spokeswoman said: “The trust and monitor have agreed legally binding undertakings under which the trust must take action to improve its accident and emergency services on a sustainable basis.
“This includes the creation and implementation of a more focused credible plan for accident and emergency services.”
Monitor is also working alongside the trust with national and local partners to identify how further improvements can be made.
Accident and emergency performance at the trust has been a concern for some time, with Monitor first taking regulatory action as a result of this in April 2013.
According to figures that have been discussed by trust directors, performance on the accident and emergency four hour target declined from 84.6 per cent in September this year to 79.6 per cent in October this year.
David Dean, senior enforcement director at Monitor, said: “This extra support will help ensure the trust makes necessary improvements so that patients can receive quality care in a timely manner.
“We want the trust to demonstrate that it understands and can overcome the issues it faces.
“Monitor will continue to look closely at the trust’s progress and will take further action if necessary.”
Neil Doverty, chief operating officer at the trust, said: “Our oversight director, Sue Lewis, has been in the trust on a number of occasions in the last few weeks.
“Whilst she doesn’t have a management role within our organisation, she is here to help us by monitoring our 10-point recovery plan, provide feedback to us and update Monitor on our progress.
“Part of Sue’s role also involves liaising with community service providers, commissioners and local authorities in our health system.
“We are already working hard to implement a number of new initiatives that are designed to help improve our performance in treating emergency patients within the four-hour standard.
“All of these initiatives are designed to help us ensure the right patients are given the right care at the right time.
“These initiatives include a Frail Elderly Unit within our Emergency Department to care specifically for our older patients who attend accident and emergency with the focus on rapid assessment, re-ablement and earlier discharge with increased support from community care services.
“In addition, we have set up a surgical assessment unit for those patients who are sent to hospital by the GP with for an urgent surgical assessment.
“This means they no longer have to wait in the Emergency Department.
“We are also working alongside our partners in the health and social care community to ensure we all deliver on our urgent care responsibilities as a health system.
“However as a trust we are acutely aware of the need to focus upon internal actions to ensure we remove any problems or processes that may cause unnecessary delays to our patients’ care.”