Chaotic targets for the NHS? That's quite normal, director told

Non-executive directors are supposed to provide independent scrutiny. But what if they ask about a chaotic situation on government targets and are told this is nothing unusual? Chaos is perfectly normal.

This is exactly what happened at a board meeting of Imperial Healthcare NHS Trust which is the largest NHS trust in London. It has world-famous hospitals in its family: Charing Cross Hospital, Hammersmith Hospital, Queen Charlotte’s & Chelsea Hospital, and St Mary’s Hospital at Paddington where Princess Diana gave birth.

Imperial’s minutes record that a “Non-Executive Director said that there appeared to be numerous areas of exposure in relation to targets, clarifications and lack of benchmarking data, in particular targets were subject to change and not set at the beginning of the year – some targets were not known until all submissions were received. The Managing Director replied that this was the normal operating position for Trusts”.

Where’s the 2,000-strong Audit Commission in this? As a regulator of NHS trusts – it describes itself as a watchdog – it is supposed to raise the alarm publicly over chaos. Or is the Audit Commission so anxious to please central and local officials that it would rather keep any criticisms within narrow margins? All credit to the plain-speaking unnamed non-executive director at Imperial.

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