You may have seen the coverage in the local papers about the latest goings on at Croydon University Hospital. There has clearly been a breakdown in relations between the non-executive directors of Croydon Health Services (which is responsible for both the hospital and NHS community services in Croydon) and interim Chief Executive, John Goulston. Michael Parker, the Chairman of the Trust, has left under pressure from NHS London; another non-exec Karen Jones has resigned; and the remaining four are threatening to resign if Mr Goulston is confirmed as the permanent Chief Executive.
And this isn't the first time this has happened. Last February, then Chief Executive Nick Hulme left the Trust after his relationship with the non-executive directors broke down and the then Chairman Brian Philpott went shortly afterwards.
I have spoken to Ruth Carnall, the Chief Executive of NHS London; to Mike Bell, who NHS London have appointed as the new interim Chairman of the Trust; and to the other non-executive directors and it is very difficult to get to the bottom of what has happened. NHS London clearly have significant concerns about the way the non-executive directors were behaving; the non-executive directors believe that NHS London have intervened illegally to ensure that 'their man' is appointed as the permanent Chief Executive.
The bottom line is that these constant power struggles at Board level are stopping the Trust from focusing on what matters - improving the quality of care it provides to Croydon residents and becoming a Foundation Trust (if it doesn't achieve this status, we will end up with health services in Croydon being run by a Trust whose primary focus is elsewhere). It's not like everything is rosy in the garden when it comes to the quality of care - Croydon is one of 17 NHS hospitals recently identified by the Care Quality Commission as failing to operate with safe staffing levels. We need a permanent Chief Executive and a permanent Chairman in place as soon as possible and a transparent review of how the Trust is governed so that we get the right relationship between the senior executives and the non-executive directors. I raised the issue with the Secretary of State yesterday and am hoping to meet him in the next couple of days.