UPDATE: Trust in charge of Grantham Hospital accused of ‘putting targets before safety’

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County councillors have released letters which suggest targets are being put before patient safety by United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust - the body which runs Grantham Hospital.

The letters, which date back to early 2010, have been released by the Lincolnshire Independents.

In the first letter a surgeon complains that he feels that he is being “coerced” into doing things which are unsafe.

The second refers to surgical lists being overcrowded in order to meet targets and refers to a patient death, with an implication that this overcrowding was a contributory cause.

The third is from a clinical director who warns the Chairman of the Trust, Paul Richardson, that there has been a shift toward meeting targets at the expense of patient safety.

Chris Brewis, a Lincolnshire Independents county councillor who is on the Health and Scrutiny committee at the county council said: “I am appalled that we have looked at safety before as a committee but these letters which were not made available to us at the time suggest that we have been misled.

“What else is being covered up? The national mortality data shows Lincolnshire’s hospitals at the wrong end of the league table.”

Phil Scarlet is standing as a Lincolnshire Independent after resigning from United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust as a Non-Executive Director over concerns about how the trust is being run.

This week he is calling on the Chair of the Trust, Paul Richardson, to resign over the treatment of former Chief Executive Gary Walker.

Mr Scarlet said: “It is shocking that ULHT spent £0.5m on gagging its former Chief Executive who raised concerns about safety. He said if you put more pressure on the system it will be dangerous for patients...These letters are some 9 months after Walker was forced out and show the new regime at the Trust putting targets before safety just what Walker tried to stop.”

He added: “I call on Paul Richardson, Chair of the Trust, to account for the £0.5m and these letters which have been concealed.

“He should resign to restore patient confidence.

“We will also consider whether we need to go to court to challenge the legality of the suppression of documents from the public.

“It is shocking to have the suppression of around 3000 pages of documents when the Francis report on Mid Staffordshire talks about openness and transparency.”

UPDATE: A spokesman for United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust said: “Patient safety remains the top priority for United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust and this means that our focus is to provide safe, high quality care at the same time as meeting our patients’ expectations.

“We have made significant improvements in all areas of patient safety in the last two years and this is demonstrated by recent inspections carried out by the Care Quality Commission which are expected to show only minor concerns compared to 14 major, moderate and minor concerns raised in 2011.”