Saolta to meet NHS this week

HEALTH Care Group Saolta will meet NHS Scotland this week to discuss bringing an independent external team over to review management and governance at Letterkenny University Hospital (LUH).
Speaking to the Donegal News ahead of the meeting Saolta CEO Tony Canavan said the move to bring in a team from the UK shows how seriously they are taking the concerns raised by HIQA’s review into the hospital’s gynaecology service, which identified weaknesses in oversight arrangements and governance structures in the hospital.
Saolta have sought the expertise of Professor John Connaghan CBE, the former Director General of the HSE who replaced Tony O’Brien after the cervical cancer scandal in 2018. Prof Connaghan formerly served as the Chief Executive of NHS Scotland on an interim basis and now holds the position of Chair of a major health board, NHS Lothian which covers the Scottish capital, Edinburgh, and is responsible for 21 hospitals.
Saolta approached the NHS during the summer to provide external support to LUH but due to the worsening Covid situation in Scotland plans to bring a team over were put on hold until the end of October.
Mr Canavan said at this week’s meeting he will be asking the NHS team to not only look at governance issues in Letterkenny but also across the Saolta group.
“A small team will come over to the hospital for a short time,” he said.
“We want to identify one to two key indicators to drive forward and really work on them. I would like to see a targeted approach.
“We will not be asking them to produce a big report. I would like there to be a sleeves rolled up approach.
“This reflects how seriously we are taking the matter in Letterkenny and HIQA were very clear in their criticism of the Saolta group in terms of governance.”
Asked if the review will result in any staff changes at the hospital, Mr Canavan said the team are not coming over “as a hit squad” but more to look at how they are doing their business. He said the aim is to drive on further improvements at the hospital and build on the progress that has been made over the last two years.
Mr Canavan said HIQA’s “very well conducted review” pointed to a lot of improvements such as reduced gynae waiting lists, increased theatre  time and the introduction of a new ambulatory (outpatient) gynaecology service. He said while they have made really good progress they want to get a new perspective and feel that bringing someone in from outside the jurisdiction will be helpful to move things on further.
Asked if the move to bring in a UK team to an Irish hospital is a national precedent, Mr Canavan said: “I can say that it has happened previously when our colleagues from the NHS have come over in the past. It’s not unprecedented but it doesn’t happen that often.”
Following a query from the Donegal News Professor Connaghan said: “During summer 2021 the NHS in Scotland were approached by the Saolta Executive Team to consider providing external support to Letterkenny University Hospital to provide advice on improvement methods. We would provide that advice through our Centre for Sustainable Delivery (CFSD) based at the Golden Jubilee Hospital in Glasgow.
“Scotland and Ireland have established a Scottish Irish collaboration to share best practice between the countries. There are numerous examples (EG in the field of digital health) where both countries have exchanged learning in the recent past.”
 Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty said the hospital need external help because the failings in gynaecology cannot be isolated to just this service.
“I put it to the manager of the hospital and the CEO of Saolta that HIQA are not satisfied that the processes and procedures are robust enough to ensure the safety of gynaecology services. That is shocking a year on from the Price Report which called out all of these issues.
“A year on and an independent body is raising concerns about the safety and lack of drive that is there.
“I believe if this was happening in a hospital in Dublin it would be a national scandal. We need external help. What happened in the gynaecology service cannot be isolated. We need a review of more than endometrial cancers.”

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