MP says trust chief executive stepping down gives hospital an opportunity

THIS is the chance to solve problems at Queen Alexandra Hospital.

Saturday, 28th May 2016, 6:08 am
Queen Alexandra Hospital in Choasham Picture: Shaun Roster

That is the message from Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt after the chief executive of the trust which runs the hospital quit yesterday.

Ursula Ward stepped down after 12 years in her role at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust (PHT).

Although Ms Mordaunt did not criticise the health boss’ work, she believes the decision provides an opportunity to ‘crack’ the ongoing issues at QA.

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That has included the Cosham hospital being put on ‘black alert’ due to long waiting times in its A&E department, ambulances forced to queue outside, and huge costs made to the NHS over bed-blocking.

Ms Mordaunt said: ‘What we must ensure is there’s still the strong leadership the hospital needs in place and we have to try, when we have events like this, to turn them into an opportunity not a disadvantage.

‘QA has some issues it really has to crack and so we need to a very, very good, strong chief executive in that role.

‘Progress has been made but there’s still more to be done and I know very shortly there will be a meeting between all MPs in the area and the QA on Ursula’s departure, and what next steps will be.

‘We need to ensure it has the management to not only overcome the problems it’s got but maximises all the ambition of its clinical teams – they’re amazing people, we’re a centre for excellence.’

Ms Mordaunt added: ‘Ursula has overseen a massive transformation for the better in the hospital.

‘We should pay her a huge tribute and thank her for all her service to the hospital, its staff and the local community.’

The announcement of Mrs Ward stepping down comes after the hospital has faced huge pressures in its A&E department.

As previously reported in The News earlier this year, ambulances were left queuing outside for hours as patients waited to be seen, while QA has been one of the worst in the country for patients being seen, treated or discharged from A&E within four hours.

The hospital also faced a daily bill of £73,000 for bed-blocking and recorded an annual deficit of £23m.

The problems come amid extra pressure across the health service, putting added strain on the PHT.

A statement from the trust said: ‘Under Ursula’s leadership we have always put the patients at the centre of everything we do here in Portsmouth, and we remain focused on our patient-centred care.

‘Ursula has taken the decision to leave her position, having successfully held the position of chief executive for 12 years. The board would like to thank Ursula for her valued contribution and dedication and wish her every success in the future.

‘The search for a new chief executive will start immediately and in the immediate term arrangements have been made to appoint Tim Powell, director of workforce and organisational development, as interim chief executive.’

Mrs Ward was initially appointed to the trust in August 1999 as director of nursing and midwifery and was then appointed as deputy chief executive in 2002

Under her guidance, QA’s cancer care gained several accolades, while the hospital was a pioneer for the hi-tech da Vinci robot for keyhole surgery.

Mrs Ward has a clinical background, predominantly in cardiology and cancer care, as well as a background in research. She spent a number of years in general management before joining Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust.

Portsmouth South MP Flick Drummond said: ‘I am very surprised at the news because I have worked with Ursula on a number of issues and have found her very helpful.

‘But also, she has been there for 12 years and given some continuity over the difficult times.

‘Still, clearly there are challenging times ahead for this trust and I hope they will appoint a new chief executive as soon as possible to alleviate uncertainty and drive the trust forward.

‘A&E is a big issue we have heard about along with discharging patients back into the community.’

Leader of Portsmouth City Council, Councillor Donna Jones, said: ‘QA has been through an extremely turbulent time over the last two to three years. In terms of hospitals, Ursula Ward has been chief executive for much longer than is usual for CEOs to stay.’

Additional reporting by Miles O’Leary.