MICHELLE Mackay is crystal clear on the key issues that face Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust – recruitment, finance and care quality, writes Ross Crawford.
The new chief executive – in office for just three weeks – is equally forthright on the decision to concentrate emergency care, including that of children, at Worcestershire Royal: “The pathway of care has been scrutinised by the Care Quality Commission, by the West Midlands Clinical Senate and by our own clinicians.
“It’s a challenging situation when communities have been used to having a service nearby, but safe services are critical and having an unsafe service closer to home just will not do.”
Ms Mackay, a native Australian, has flown halfway around the world to take up one of the most challenging jobs in the National Health Service – turning around a Trust which last year ran a deficit of £59million, is currently in special measures and was served with a critical Section 29A order by the CQC earlier this year and told to improve, or else.
She says she found the size of that challenge ‘significantly appealing’ and was convinced by the determination of chairman Karagh Merrick to get the job done to not only apply, but to accept when offered the position.
“We have to work on recruitment as we have significant gaps in terms of both medical and nursing staff.
“That produces a reliance on temporary staff which impacts on continuity of care and finances and can also affect the quality of our services,” she said.
Her plan to overcome this is to sell the benefits of living and working in Worcestershire, something which helped convince her to make the move her self.
“I think this area has a lot to offer the medical profession and the opportunity to work across the spectrum in three locations (the Alex, Kidderminster General Hospital and Worcestershire Royal) adds to the attraction,” she said.
She also vowed to tackle the backlog of patients on trolleys in corridors in Accident and Emergency at Worcestershire Royal at peak periods.
“The issues in A&E are not insignificant and it’s a clear area of focus; critical solutions are not simple, it’s complex work and we’re committed to taking numerous small steps to make improvements,” she said.
Although she admits she doesn’t envisage never returning to her native Australia, Ms Mackay said: “ I didn’t fly halfway around the world to go back after a year or two.”
After years of instability the Trust now boasts a new Chief Nurse, Chief Medical Officer and Chief Finance Officer, which Ms Mackay says will help drive change.
The new CEO comes from a nursing background, is a recognised expert in health management, and in her home city of Brisbane her remit covered the vast expanses of Queensland and the Northern Territories.
She’s married to Wayne, a policeman, who’s joined in the UK, and has a 30 year old son.
The couple have found Worcester to their like – she can easily walk to work – although she admits the weather is very different from the Gold Coast of Australia.
We met on an chilly Wednesday and she said, with a laugh: “We’d never have a day this cold, even in the middle of winter.”
However she has already noticed one or two areas where the UK may be falling behind some of the strides being made in Australia:
“The use of tech out in the community is not as obvious here,” she said.
“Having members of the public using tech to monitor their situation, to manage their own care, seems to me to be preferable to them having to get a doctor’s appointment or come into hospital.”
“We need to improve the safety and quality of the care we provide, we need to be out of special measures, we need to establish engagement with our staff and enable them to contribute in any way they can, to improve our vacancy rate and engage with the entire health economy on how we deliver care.
“We are all here to make sure we have the best service possible for the community,” she added.