A secret proposal to have just one chief executive to run the hospital foundations Trusts North and South of the Tees is at best extremely premature and not in the best interests of patients nor the staff who work there, according to Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham.
The newly appointed Trust chairman, just weeks into the job, wants the two existing jobs merged within the next few months – a move which would put the successful and financially sound North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust under the same one manager as the deeply in debt and poor performing South Tees NHS Foundation Trust.
Alex said in a letter to the chairman, Prof Derek Bell, that the South Tees NHS Foundation Trust must get its “house in order” first before any further joint posts which could lead to a full merger of the Trusts very soon.
In another letter, to Minister of Health, Edward Argar MP, Alex writes that North Tees and Hartlepool Foundation Trust – “one of the best run Trusts in the country” – could be forced to prop up its southern counterpart as a result of any merger. In contrast to North Tees, South Tees NHS Foundation Trust is seeing increasing debt and regularly reports poor performance in reviews of the service. A joint appointment and any future merger, says Alex, “could prove to be a millstone not just round the neck of North Tees and could significantly impact the patient care provided by the Trust.”
He stressed that whilst collaboration is important – it isn’t just collaboration between two Trusts – but with other stakeholders from local councils to the voluntary sector.
Only once South Tees gets “the service to our community sorted out, its rating considerably improved, and the huge deficit corrected” should any joint Chief Executive be considered, writes Alex who is seeking an urgent meeting with the Minister to discuss the proposals.
“This is not about structures – it is about the staff, standards and ultimately patient care. North Tees NHS Foundation Trust is undoubtedly one of the best run Trusts in the country, from providing all important patient care to ensuring sound financial management. This is in stark contrast to the performance of South Tees.
“Any joint appointment could have disastrous consequences on the running of the North Tees Trust and, I fear, would be a slippery slope to an overall merger. There should be no further joint arrangements until South Tees gets its house in order. To do so beforehand would be lumbering North Tees Trust with a millstone around its neck and this could significantly impact the service our Trust provides to people and communities like those in Stockton North.
“I have written to the Minister asking him to meet with me as soon as possible so that together we can ensure this matter is dealt with properly in the best interests of our community.”