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This is the second Adjournment debate I have been granted in 16 months on Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and concerns about its governance. In the first debate, last June, I expressed profound concerns about the processes and lack of transparency leading up to the appointment of the trust’s current chair, Pearse Butler. As I said then, it was the first time in my 20-year relationship with the trust and its predecessors, as a Blackpool MP, that I felt it necessary to express such concern in an Adjournment debate. I felt I had no choice, given the catalogue of errors, evasion and lack of transparency that had accompanied the process, including failings within NHS Improvement.
Last year I said:
“I am forced to conclude that the nominations committee thought that it could get away with evading proper scrutiny and transparency—that a thin veneer of irritated politeness attempting to conceal a determined effort to override public governors unless they were rubber-stamped…would do the trick. Well, it does not do the trick”.
“are clearly a cause for concern…it is clear that the recruitment process for the new chair had a number of irregularities.”
He criticised the trust’s failure to give decent or timely advice to MPs and stakeholders or to give suggestions for people who might apply. He assured the House that he would be
“working with NHSI to ensure that the irregularities regarding this appointment do not occur in the future. The hon. Gentleman has done the House a service in highlighting the clear irregularities in respect of this appointment.”—[Official Report,
Vol. 643, c. 1005-9.]
Indeed, when I met the new chair, Pearse Butler, in August 2018 for a review and a discussion of all the hugely important issues affecting our trust, which not only serves 330,000 acute patients on the Fylde coast but provides community health for nearly half a million patients into Wyre and north Lancashire, he hastened to assure me that he had taken on board the critique and would ensure new openness and transparency on these issues. I accepted the assurance at face value. I little dreamed that, just over 12 months later, I would have to return to the subject, but this time with him not as the passive beneficiary of a flawed process, but as an active agent—probably the leading agent—in another area.
I make it clear that my concerns in no way reflect on the vast majority of hard-working staff in the trust or on the challenging financial and other circumstances, especially in my Blackpool South constituency, which is the most deprived in England—overall health in Blackpool is the worst on 23 of the 32 health indicators. Their work, and many examples of good care under extreme pressure, were noted in the recent Care Quality Commission report, and I associate myself with those comments.