Sharing best practice turns around trust

The HR director and senior management team at Basildon and Thurrock General
Hospitals NHS Trust have helped cut waiting times at the neighbouring Gravesham
and Dartford NHS Trust.

Gravesham Trust was one of only 12 in the country to be given the
Government’s lowest ‘zero star’ rating last September, and when standards did
not significantly improve, the three-star Basildon Trust took over its
management to try to drive up its performance.

Following an informal management agreement between the two trusts, Gravesham
has announced that the number of patients waiting more than three weeks for an
outpatient appointment has fallen from 2,160 in March 2001 to 654 in January

John Adsett, HR director at Basildon, told Personnel Today the management
agreement has allowed both trusts to share best practice.

He said: "We have had an arrangement with Gravesham for around three
months, when our chief executive was asked to step in. The only person left
from their management team is the HR director who is very competent and we are
looking to share ideas. He is doing things we are not and vice-versa, so, if
nothing else, we’re sharing best practice.

"It has been more general management issues that needed to be

Adsett, who is also secretary of the Association of Healthcare Human
Resource Management, believes his trust has been able to cast a fresh eye on
the challenges facing Gravesham.

"It is about talking about the changes and improvements that can be
made. In a situation like this there are basic things you can look at from a
new perspective," he said.

Adsett welcomes government plans for successful trusts to take on the
franchise for running failing trusts, but he wants more detail of how it will
work in practice.

He said: "It’s difficult to say what HR at these trusts will do, and
the messages coming from the Department of Health are hazy to say the

Adsett believes HR’s role in the process should be one of change management
and internal communication. "HR ought to be primarily a change
agent," he said, "and in a franchise situation consultation and
communication with staff is crucial. Replacing a whole management team can be
incredibly unsettling for staff."

Adsett also admitted relief at the DOH’s decision to shelve radical plans to
put failing trusts under private sector management.

"When the notion of NHS trusts first came about, a number of chief
executives came in from other backgrounds and they were very much a mixed
blessing. There was a mix of spectacular successes and failures," he said.

Commenting on the recent changes at Gravesham Trust, a spokesman said:
"We would welcome the opportunity to appoint a new chief executive through
the franchise scheme, but in the meantime the trust will continue to build on
the progress to provide a quality of service that meets expectations."

By Ross Wigham

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