SPECIAL REPORT: Lord Mawhinney’s concerns over shake-up Health chiefs ‘bullied’ into boards merger
HEALTH chiefs in Peterborough have been ‘bullied and intimidated’ into quitting to pave the way for a shake-up of medical care in the city.
The dramatic claim was made by Lord Brian Mawhinney of Peterborough who says city health bosses are being forced out to make way for a new super-health agency, which does not have any legal right to exist.
That agency will involve merging or “clustering” the primary care trust NHS Peterborough, which buys the medial services from hospital to GP care that operate in Peterborough, with NHS Cambridgeshire.
Lord Mawhinney is concerned the new organisation will be dominated by health chiefs from outside Peterborough and that care in the city could suffer.
Lord Mawhinney told the House of Lords that those directors who objected to the merger were given no choice but to accept the changes and resign.
He said those who refused were warned they would face two years in the health wilderness under rules that allow any non-executive whose behaviour is not seen as “conducive to the good management of the PCT”, to be forced to resign and banned from taking up a similar role for two years.
He said the national NHS and the Strategic Health Authority (SHA) NHS Midlands and East have pushed forward with plans to “cluster” the two primary care trusts.
The move has already seen the level of Peterborough representation fall from the six non-executive directors who were on the NHS Peterborough board, to just two who are on the new clustered board.
It has also led to former NHS Peterborough chairman Derek Harris resigning in protest.
Lord Mawhinney told the House of Lords: “PCTS are statutory, no debate; clusters are not, no debate.
“Yet in practice PCTS have been removed, abolished, taken down or whatever phraseology noble Lords wish to use, to be replaced by clustering.
“What has happened is that public servants who worked for primary care trusts were intimidated and bullied into getting out of the way so that a system which does not have a legal basis could proceed.”
“It is no wonder that good upstanding people feel intimidated and bullied into giving up the service that they have been making, because they are being threatened with two years of exclusion by the NHS.”
Non-executive directors are taken onto PCT boards to represent the views of their local communities.
They get an extra vote on board decisions compared to executive directors, who are salaried staff on the PCT, to ensure the board works in the best interests of its people.
Lord Mawhinney was spoke in the Lords after he put forward an amendment to the Government’s Health and Social Care Bill, which paves the way for the hand over of primary care to GPS, which states that all clustered PCTS should be re-instated to their previous form.
Earl Howe, the Parliamentary Under-secretary of State for the Department of Health, said: “There is no desire to force non-executives to resign. These are not non-exec directors who in some way have misbehaved. However, it is necessary in the interests of the NHS that we rationalise the system.
“The proposal put before non-executive was that, in the interests of the health service, they should consider their positions. That is not because they have done anything wrong but because of the transition we find ourselves in.”
An NHS Midlands and East spokesman said: “This (clustering) is to ensure the NHS achieves the necessary management efficiencies, reduces running costs and retains resilience within PCTS, enabling them to support the transition process effectively.
“All members of the NHS Peterborough board, including the chair, were given the opportunity to apply for positions on the new single cluster board.
“NHS Cambridgeshire and NHS Peterborough remains focused on providing high quality and safe health care services that meet the specific needs of people living in both areas.”
Afterwards, Mr Harris said he agreed with Lord Mawhinney’s comments that the board was “bullied and intimidated” into approving the clustered board, and also echoed Lord Mawhinney’s complaints about being “patronised” by health chiefs at NHS Midlands and East. Mr Harris and his board de- cided to approve the clustering as they felt they were stuck “between a rock and a hard place” and were left with little choice but to accept the change, or enter into a counterproductive fight with the SHA.
He said: “Non-executive directors are given one extra vote to ensure the PCT acts in the interests of local people, but when those same directors unanimously agree that what is being proposed is wrong, they get threatened effectively with being pushed out of office for two years.
“One of my non-executive directors got a letter saying exactly that. We ended up taking the view that we would end up getting in a bun fight with the SHA, which we didn’t think was in the best interests of the local people. It’s disgraceful.
“I agree with Lord Mawhinney about the overbearing attitude of NHS Midlands and East. It is an arrogant and bullying attitude.”
ALARM: Lord Brian Mawhinney claims health bosses in Peterborough are being “bullied” into quitting.