The new chief executive of Birmingham’s largest hospital trust, which was shamed for a series of medication blunder deaths, has set out his stall declaring patient safety is the highest priority.
In his first interview since taking the helm of Birmingham’s Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, Dr Mark Newbold decreed there would be a new culture of openness welcoming scrutiny from the public with services that he did not want to be target-led.
The 50-year-old consultant histopathologist is bringing fresh eyes to Solihull, Sutton Coldfield’s Good Hope and Bordesley Green’s Heartlands hospitals following the retirement of his predecessor, Dr Mark Goldman, in June.
“I am in favour of a more personal style of leadership and it is important that it is visibly-led rather than being a faceless bureaucrat,” said Dr Newbold, a father-of-four.
“Staff have to hold me to account, so I expect them to scrutinise any decisions the trust board makes. It’s a two way thing.
“A hospital is an important institution in local communities and it should be visible over who is responsible and how to get hold of them if you need to.
“My four main priorities for this organisation are services that are safe, caring, efficient and locally engaged. It is not about targets for me, it is about patient safety.”
Patient safety is a key word for campaigners as Heart of England has come under fire for a series of unnecessary deaths due to medication errors, concerns over lengthy A&E winter waiting times and run down children’s and baby wards that need an overhaul at Good Hope, which all now fall under Dr Newbold’s remit.
“If you go anywhere in the country, most hospitals are struggling with severe emergency pressures,” added the new chief executive.
“Some of the incidents are mostly related to unremitting pressures, we have an extraordinary number of emergency admissions and attendances and that sometimes leads to incidences occurring.
“It’s about being open and making sure we learn from them. The world is changing and there is zero tolerance now, so we keep working to minimise them (incidents).
“We have to deal with every incident and there will be more, but it is how we deal with them.”
Dr Newbold is no stranger to the West Midlands as this is where he cut his teeth in the medical profession, but the last time he was at Heartlands Hospital, he was a student and recalls “ it was the start of the Falklands War”.
He trained at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in Edgbaston, before moving on to Warwick Hospital and later helping to pioneer the national bowel cancer screening test during his years in Rugby.
It was three years ago that the doctor broadened his horizons to management, becoming chief executive of Kettering General Hospital Foundation Trust where he improved the ratings in three years and led the Trust into Foundation status.
He envisages that settling into such a big organisation as Heart of England could take a full year, but he is also positive that he arrives when the NHS is also undergoing radical changes at the hands of Health Secretary Andrew Lansley.
“I am positive about the changes,” added Dr Newbold. “It will mean huge upheaval and will be complicated to make it work, but I believe it is in the right direction of travel.
“It is a new era with Mr Lansley putting GPs in charge and I have met 50 GPs already who are very keen to look at demand management, particularly for the elderly.
“If they can be treated in their own home, it is preferable to coming into hospital.
“We need to shift the mindset that you go into a hospital from start to finish. It should be a pathway with the middle bit in a hospital. Most doctors understand that.”
With a new leader in Dr Newbold seeing through changes from the White Paper and a new ‘open door’ policy, it is new beginnings all round at Heart of England Trust.