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Failed NHS trust caused 'unnecessary harm' to patients

From BBC - February 7, 2018

Patients at a failed NHS trust suffered "unnecessary harm" because a senior leadership team was "out of its depth", says a report seen by BBC News.

Misguided cost-cutting at Liverpool Community Health (LCH) led to severe staff shortages and bullying, it found.

Despite the problems, BBC News has also seen evidence that regulators helped the trust's chief executive find another six-figure NHS job.

LCH said it would respond to the report once it was published on Thursday.

The trust provided services such as district nursing, dentistry and diabetes care to about 750,000 people in Merseyside.

A report in 2016 previously found that an excessive focus on becoming a foundation trust, allowing greater freedom from regulators, had led to extreme cost-cutting and staff being bullied to meet targets.

This latest review, carried out by Dr Bill Kirkup, who also investigated the Morecambe Bay scandal at Furness General Hospital, focused on the trust's clinical failures.

He describes Liverpool Community Health, established in 2010, as being "dysfunctional from the outset".

Its leadership team, led by chief executive Bernie Cuthel and chaired by Frances Molloy, was inexperienced, he found.

Nonetheless, the trust set out to achieve foundation status, setting "infeasible financial targets that damaged patient services".

The plans included:

In one year, the district nursing budget was underspent by 2.9m, leading to an increase in the most serious types of pressure ulcers, the wrong teeth being removed and patients suffering fractured hips, the report found.

The authors could not quantify the exact number of patients who suffered unnecessary harm due to the "poor standard of incident reporting and investigations".

They found staff were constantly bullied, with a "punitive and blame culture" derived from an "excessively top down" structure.

Some were suspended without any reason being given, their careers left in limbo, because of a "chaotic" human resources department that "was not fit for purpose".

Coaching support

In 2014, following concerns raised by Labour MP Rosie Cooper, a Care Quality Commission report found significant problems at the trust.

These findings prompted the resignation of top executives, and new management brought in significant improvements and dozens of new staff.The trust is now in the process of being wound up, with most services passing to another NHS trust, MerseyCare, in April.

Emails seen by BBC News show that an NHS regulator, the Trust Delivery Authority, arranged for chief executive Bernie Cuthel to leave Liverpool Community Health by finding her a position at Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust on a 12-month secondment.

Where are they now?

Bernie Cuthel

Frances Molloy

Michelle Porteus

Helen Lockett

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