A WATCHDOG committee has been set up to monitor the impact of cuts at the Royal Bolton Hospital.
Bolton Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has formed the special group — the Star Chamber — because of the financial situation at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust.
But it is also appealing for members of the public to come forward and tell the CCG if they see any adverse changes in services at the hospital.
And CCG chiefs will also regularly visit the hospital to see first-hand the impact of any changes.
The committee will meet monthly to discuss changes to services — and offer advice if necessary. It has been set up by Dr Colin Mercer, clinical director for governance and safety at the CCG, and will include other members from the CCG, a representative from Public Health, the Trust’s medical director, Steve Hodgson, and director of nursing, Dee Sissons.
The plans were announced at the CCG’s board meeting after the Foundation Trust’s (FT) Staff Side representative, Jane Leicester, asked the CCG what assurances it could give that cuts would not affect patient safety and care.
Dr Mercer told the board that in addition to the committee meetings, he would also be visiting hospital wards regularly to see the impact of any changes.
He said: “We are totally committed to providing quality care.
“The CCG has got to assure itself that the Foundation Trust is looking at its cost improvements programme and be assured the impact on quality is taken into account. We have to assure ourselves their plan is robust and we are happy with it.
“There are a lot of cost improvement programmes we have to look at them and seek some assurance with the Trust.
“We don’t just look at it and say it is okay, we monitor it when the cost improvement comes into place.
“We realise there is an issue and we have got to plan to deal with it.”
The Trust, which is £14.5 million in debt and is being monitored by health watchdog Monitor for financial failings and poor governance, must save £50 million in the next three years.
It has appointed a £1 million Turnaround Team, with experts from accountancy firm Deloitte, and is working on Cost Improvement Plans, to make savings.
The Trust is currently in a 90-day consultation period about 500 possible job losses and the down-banding of more than 1,500 members of staff.
After the unveiling of the Star Chamber, Ms Leicester said: “It is reassuring to hear there will be a process that is going to be looking over the changes.”
Su Long, designate chief officer at the CCG, added the Trust needed to engage with patients about the changes and communicate any loss of services.
She said: “We would encourage anyone if they do perceive a change in service to tell us. We want to know if there are any changes that we haven’t picked up.”
Dr Charlotte MacKinnon, GP board member at the CCG, echoed her comment and urged people to get in touch — as the Trust had not always been “honest”.
She said: “We haven’t always had the honest truth from the Foundation Trust management and I am concerned that we, as a committee, may be given a particular slant on cost Improvement programmes.”
Heather Edwards, head of communications at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We’ve been clear from the outset that it’s important for the trust and CCG to work together closely on our programme going forward.
“We share information with them and together ensure that projects do not affect the quality of patient care adversely.”
Health chiefs in Bolton have also said they will closely review The Francis Report, which was published this week following failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust between 2005 and 2009, and look carefully at the recommendations.
A raft of changes have been announced following the publication of the Francis Report designed to ensure that any future failures in NHS organisations are detected and dealt with quickly.
Among other recommendations, the Prime Minister ordered the creation of the post of chief inspector of hospitals, who will have responsibility for a regime of inspections.
People can get in touch with the CCG by making a complaint through PALS, by using their website, by writing directly to board members or by contacting their GP.