Healthcare Commission inspectors will arrive at Birmingham Children’s Hospital in days for thorough inquiries into alleged mismanagement of a catalogue of services.
Paul O’Connor, chief executive of Birmingham Children’s Foundation Trust, revealed hospital executives have handed over scores of documents including board minutes and governance arrangements demanded by the commission.
Investigating officials will arrive at the city centre hospital next week and compile evidence from interviews for two weeks, including details from local Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) and University Hospital Birmingham Trust, whose staff sparked investigations.
Transplant surgeons from the trust’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Edgbaston, made complaints in August over mismanagement and unnecessary delays affecting the liver and kidney transplant, brain surgery, face deformity, vascular and interventional radiology departments at the Children’s Hospital when visiting for operations.
But a defiant Mr O’Connor refused to be drawn into a war of words with the neighbouring Foundation Trust and competition issues over transplant services saying the Healthcare Commission findings would lay to rest “unfounded rumours”.
“We have had words with University Hospital Trust for decades,” said the chief executive. “We have a working relationship with them and the vast majority of people there, I have a huge amount of confidence in them, both on a managerial and clinical level. I used to work there myself in the 1990s.”
He was speaking as the Children's Hospital held a ceremony to cut the first turf for a new £2.8m Teenage Cancer Trust building.
Mr O’Connor, aged 49, added: “The thing about Foundation Trusts is you can’t reduce services you have promised but you can acquire more. We are continually developing more services. Evidence shows specialised children’s work needs to be undertaken in fewer but better resource centres.
“We are one of those, one of only four in the country along with Great Ormond Street, in London, and children’s hospitals in Liverpool and Sheffield. This is not about the future of children’s services.”
Mr O’Connor said claims by consultants that complaints had fallen on deaf ears and they had no-one to turn to over problems would be a particular issue taken up by the Healthcare Commission.
“The commission will look at the speed and responsiveness we gave to issues raised, along with the behaviour of key clinicians,” he added.
“Doctors do understand how concerns get flagged up. We have strict governance
policies which make clear to staff what they need to do if they have any concerns whatsoever and there are risk registers that go to the trust board every month.
“There is no evidence to suggest clinical risk and never has been. There are some operational issues and we are examining them.
“The Children’s Hospital is already strong and this is about putting the record straight.
“Every other hospital has had to lay off people over the past few years but that hasn’t happened here. We haven’t got any expensive loans to pay off over the next so many years, our loans are nil.
“There is no context for any of these claims.”
Mr O’Connor, looking unphased but a little tired, is determined to protect the future of a hospital that even helped him as a boy when he suffered with a squint 40 years ago.
“We see a third of a million patients a year now, employ more than 2,500 people, have had an additional 10,000 outpatients consultations than last year and have dealt with 2,000 extra patients in the first six months this year compared to the same period last year,” said Mr O’Connor.
“That is a huge step up in the volume of children due to population growth and we are also being sent paediatric jobs from other trusts due to our specialisms.
“We are responding to that though.
“I know this hospital and the excellent standard of care we have here. The Healthcare Commission will do what it is entitled to do and we have given them everything we have been asked to. I know this hospital will get through this.”