Former Labour Health Minister Mike O’Brien has welcomed the news that George Eliot Hospital in Nuneaton has come out of special measures and congratulated staff.

GEH.jpgThe Eliot was placed in special measures last July after a review by Sir Bruce Keogh identified serious concerns about its higher than expected death rates. There were also issues about out of hours care and its bedsores record. The Keogh Report said that the problems had unexpectedly arisen after November 2011 taking managers by surprise. In 2009-10 the hospital had won national praise for its success in addressing both death rates and hospital infections.

Mike, who is based locally in Bedworth, said,

“This is very good news. The staff has done really well. The hospital had unexpectedly developed problems in 2011-12 and the Keogh Report recommended it went into special measures. It is a tribute to the staff that the problems have been sufficiently addressed for it to be allowed out of special measures.

“But there is no room for complacency because the hospital has had to employ more staff and now has a £12m deficit. It’s unclear how they will square the financial circle. They need the extra staff, but it’s created a big overdraft. The government will need to find the money to deal with this from within the wider NHS budget.

“One thing that must have helped was the decision last February to drop the controversial privatisation process. Hospital managers had been distracted for 18 months by a bidding process initiated in by Ministers who wanted a private firm to take over the management of the hospital. After the hospital went into special measures, the private sector lost interest. There was also a massive local campaign against privatisation and thankfully it was scrapped.

“Special measures resulted in the NHS providing mentoring by University Hospital Birmingham to help the Eliot in the battle to get it out of special measures. This has been a very good tie up. It shows that the NHS can better solve these problems than bringing in private companies. It would be good if the link continued but it is unclear what is happening about it. I hope arrangements can be made to keep strong links in future.”

The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt admitted in Parliament that

“A year ago, George Eliot had worryingly low levels of cover for clinical staff, especially out of hours. On a number of wards, patients often had to change beds several times during a stay. But it has made excellent progress.

“Thirty one more doctors and 52 extra nurses have been hired since July 2013 to help solve these problems, all of which has led to the recommendation that George Eliot comes out of special measures.

“This success is a tremendous tribute to the work of brilliant staff who are dedicated to the principles that underpin our NHS.”

Mike O’Brien has dismissed comments by North Warwickshire MP Dan Byles who has implied that the problems arose during Labour’s period.

“I don’t know why Mr Byles says silly things like this because people only need to read the Keogh Report to know the problems arose unexpectedly in late 2011. The hospital was doing well in 2010. He should rejoice that the hospital is out of special measures and congratulate the staff, rather than indulging in cheap spin.”

Mike O’Brien QC was the Minister of State for Health at the time of the last General Election and afterwards joined a Birmingham barristers chambers to practise law, specialising in judicial review, including in the health sector.

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