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New Watford General Hospital boss Samantha Jones outlines plans for site's future
The new chief executive in charge of Watford General Hospital has described many of its buildings as “unfit for purpose”.
Samantha Jones officially took over the role of chief executive of West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust on February 4.
Ms Jones has worked in the NHS for more than 20 years, starting life as a paediatric and general nurse in Great Ormond Street and Bromley hospitals before taking part in a management training scheme.
She was previously the chief executive of Epsom and St Helier Hospitals NHS Trust, before taking up the directorship of Care UK, a private sector healthcare provider.
Ms Jones said: “We have a fantastic workforce and I have been overwhelmed by the commitment of the staff.
“The trust has its challenges. Clearly the infrastructure concerns me. We provide very good care, in buildings that are just not fit for purpose.
“What’s helpful being new is that you see things through the patients’ and families’ eyes.
“We’ve had some significant modernisation, such as the acute admissions unit and the work we’re doing in the birthing centre at the moment, but of course it’s not enough and we certainly want to be doing more.
“There is enough to do here, what I hope to bring is leadership and clarity.”
West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust is at a period of great change, with a hopeful foundation status bid, and plans to completely redevelop its site in Watford.
Ms Jones believes foundation status will give the trust more independence and financial flexibility.
She said: “It is an outcome, not a reason for being.
“Whether you’re an NHS organisation or a foundation trust, you have the right system and processes in place.
“At the moment I’m not confident we have a clinical strategy (a plan for the future led by medical staff) strong enough, so we are revising it, and from that we will know what our commissioners want from this organisation.
“We will then know what the size and shape is for the future and within a few months we’ll have outlined a timetable to get to foundation trust.”
Foundation status is seen as an important step towards the new health campus project, and the building of a new hospital in Watford.
The urgent need for new facilities in the town has been underlined this year as temporary wards have had to be set up.
Ms Jones said: “The support for the campus remains. It’s exciting, fantastic and a superb opportunity for redevelopment, but it needs to be underpinned by the clinical strategy.
“It won’t wait, but there will not be delays from the trust’s perspective.”
The most recent financial report said the trust was operating at a deficit of £1.6million in December 2012.
It had hoped to finish this financial year with a £3.1million surplus, but later revealed it was just aiming to break even.
Ms Jones said in the next financial year, senior medical staff would be brought into the early stages of a patient’s treatment, in order to make the service more efficient.
She added: “The finances are an outcome of how we deliver our clinical services, if we approach everything around the highest quality of care for patients, our finances will follow.
“We’ve had a significant increase in emergency admissions, and there is a cost to delivering that.
“We also haven’t delivered what we said we would from a savings perspective.”
Cost-cutting measures recently introduced have included the cancellation of a staff bus service and the scrapping of free parking for disabled blue badge holders.
Ms Jones said: “The decision about the blue badges was made the week before I started. I’ve asked for us to go out with a survey and ask the public and our staff their views.
“There are no easy answers to car parking, in an ideal world I’d like there to be enough spaces and no charge but that’s not reality.
“The harsh reality is, with the sustainability agenda, the green agenda, and the fact we don’t have enough car parking, it’s an issue where we will never please everybody.”