In 2017 North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust was declared a health care organisation in financial deficit. Our reality surrounding the state of economics within the sector, though alarming, was sadly not unusual, and this was an indicator of the challenges and opportunities going forward into a different future.
It is always a blow for a trust board of directors to have the spotlight shine on areas of negative performance. It’s difficult not to take it personally and think about what we could have done differently.
By March 2018, we were inspected by the Care Quality Commission, and in spite of our financial difficulties we were rated as ‘good’. The confirmation that described our services as some of the best in the region contributed to our determination to recover our financial position. The very fabric of what we delivered – safe, effective, impactful patient care had been recognised.
We took the decision, as a board to appoint a new Director of Finance. Of course, our selected appointment was not a new face for the Trust, Neil Atkinson was a former member of the organisation and a part of the North Tees and Hartlepool family. He had taken some time out to work in other key financial roles that would only add to his already strong portfolio and understanding of NHS finances, often choppy waters to navigate.
Whilst I refreshed our strategic direction with the board, our outlook and ambition for financial recovery has never been more driven and more realistic. As we are all too aware, the NHS remains challenged, but as Neil himself describes it ‘this is a journey’ and it is one that the entire team – clinical, non-clinical, at all levels has embarked upon with absolute gusto.
The advent of our new operating model – care groups, led by directors and clinical leads is absolute testament to our focus on population health and sustainability.
Our Trust is very confident about re-writing our economic outlook. We have become prudent and we continue to innovate, and dare we (the royal public sector we) say it – negotiate. We recognise our limitations and as any good financial planner would advise, we will never overstretch ourselves with credit we can ill afford.
Furthermore, our much improved situation has allowed us to support the wider system in more recent times. Patient care and safety does not stop at the boundaries of Stockton and Hartlepool. We are investing in a more aspirant health care community for the entire Tees Valley. The North East and North Cumbria populations can rely on a dedication from North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust to support population health, financial stability and all of the ambitions of the NHS Long Term Plan now and in the future.
We will continue to be transparent and open about our position. Our news will only become more positive as each year passes, and we will dedicate to sharing lessons learned with those who want to hear our story.