The creation of a supersized health conglomerate has “raised antennae” at the Town Hall over a potential loss of independence for Homerton Hospital.
Barts Health and Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals (BHRUT) NHS Trusts announced back in May that, while they would remain separate statutory bodies, they would in future be led by the same chair.
This person will be responsible for taking forward a project of “deeper collaboration” in the spirit set out by national policy.
However, the move has caused unrest among councillors scrutinising health matters in Hackney, who fear the Homerton could get drawn into the sphere of influence of the vast new organisation and give up its own governance in the process.
Cllr Ben Hayhurst, who chairs the Health in Hackney scrutiny commission, said: “I understand the areas of scope of working together. That has always been the case and obviously the [new health partnership] Integrated Care System will accelerate that, but from a resident’s point of view and from our point of view we are incredibly proud and grateful for the work the Homerton does for our borough.
“The idea that there could possibly be a merging of governance or management, and essentially a loss of the independence of the Homerton going forward would be of grave, grave concern and would undoubtedly be met with an awful lot of resistance.”
In response to questioning, the hospital’s chief executive Tracey Fletcher said: “As a board we have not talked about there being a coming together of governance or management between ourselves and Barts Health. I equally would have some concerns about that, given the current position of the individual organisations.
“At the moment the Homerton is in a pretty reasonable, robust state, and there are certainly a number of issues that both Barts Health and BHRUT, and I think they would acknowledge this, need to resolve, and part of their thinking about coming together is the opportunities that gives them to resolve some of the longstanding issues they have.
“Individuals may have their different thoughts about how successful or not that may be, but from the Homerton’s perspective we would have to be very clear about what the case was to embark on any of those discussions.”
Barts and BHRUT had no further comment beyond their announcement of closer collaboration when asked by the Citizen what the new arrangements could mean for the Homerton’s future.
The partnership between the two Trusts is designed to deliver improvements on patients’ experiences of urgent and emergency care, to reduce backlogs for planned operations, and to tackle health inequality.
According to Fletcher, the two organisations “talk a lot” about the advantages in the City and Hackney as a result of how the health network works together, and about the role the Homerton will play, but she stressed that some of those conversations are “coming to me a little bit late”.
She added: “The very honest answer at this moment in time is, ultimately in the very long term, who knows where all organisations will settle?”
Responding to Fletcher, Cllr Hayhurst “put down a red line” to insist any new arrangement is brought to the Town Hall for scrutiny before it is a fait accompli.
He said: “Our antennae are understandably raised about the impacts that this could have on the outstanding service as judged by the Care Quality Commission that the Homerton provides.”
You can read the full statement released by Barts and BHRUT here.