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Children's hospital chief called before council

13th November 2008

The chief executive of shamed Birmingham Children’s Hospital has been summoned before city health watchdogs to give his account of what is being done to combat failings at the trust.

Birmingham City Council’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee has written to Paul O’Connor calling him before members to answer hard-hitting questions and outline the hospital’s plans. Members hope it will ensure hospital chiefs fulfil promises to improve but also rebuild public confidence in one of the city’s most established hospitals.

An independent inquiry by the Healthcare Commission is under way after a damning report by Birmingham’s Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) on management, bed and staff shortage issues in the liver and kidney transplant, brain surgery, face deformity, vascular and interventional radiology departments.

Coun Deirdre Alden (Edgbaston, Cons), chair of the health scrutiny committee, met Mr O’Connor on Tuesday. The councillor then formally wrote to the trust summoning the chief executive before members once the Healthcare Commission investigation was completed.

Coun Alden wrote: “It is essential that any remedial actions that might be required are given as much public prominence as possible in order to restore faith in the services provided in your Trust.

“Therefore I would request that at the conclusion of the Healthcare Commission’s intervention you attend the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee to outline your next steps.

“The clinical safety of patients is of prime concern for members of the committee and reports in a national newspaper imply there are issues around the clinical safety of patients, but does not appear to support this with evidence.

“I am sure you recognise Members of the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee play a key role in ensuring that services provided to Birmingham residents are both safe and fit for purpose.”

The scrutiny committee has also requested latest information on action plans and how far they have been implemented across the wards to be forwarded to members.Now that the Children’s Hospital is a Foundation Trust, free from Government control and regulated by overseeing body Monitor, Health Secretary Alan Johnson has requested the Health Commission carry out a review.

Whistle-blowing transplant consultants at Edgbaston’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital initially raised concerns, prompting an internal NHS review by Birmingham PCTs in August.PCTs want action on more service support and development of clinical and managerial leadership to develop services and tightening theatre procedures to avoid delay and ensure capacity is managed well.

Other improvements have been ordered to upgrade systems for stock and equipment, improve incident reporting of day-to-day clinical incidents, including delays to operations and treatment, and improve the management of staffing.

PCT officials who carried out the internal inquiry state that no children’s lives have been put at risk by the failings.

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