Southport’s departing NHS trust chief has made clear that the hospital and its A&E department are secure for now but expressed concern over long term problems that need addressing.
Speaking in a meeting with local Labour representatives before leaving his post, Southport and Ormskirk NHS Trust Chief Executive Silas Nicholls dismissed rumours of there being any plans to relocate to Skelmersdale or that there was any immediate threat to the hospital or its A&E.
Mr Nicholls says the organisation he departs at the end of this month is in a far more secure position than when he took the role thanks to the hard work of staff and management but warns of challenges ahead.
Pointing to real improvements in areas like A&E and the administration of the hospital, he says these are just the first steps in a much wider series of changes that are required – with long term structural problems being the biggest obstacle to overcome, the NHS boss explained:
“The actual fabric of the trust’s two hospital sites is a major concern that cannot be underestimated. Southport and Ormskirk hospitals need some £30million plus spending on them just to bring both up to scratch, which is why ultimately we believe a single site new build would be the best option if it were possible.”
“Sadly, we have not been given the required funding to either revamp the two sites or rebuild afresh by the government and in the current conditions, I can’t see that happening any time soon. So there will still be plenty for the new chief executive and our excellent staff to contend with.”
Mr Nicholls also made clear that those claiming the hospital was currently under threat or could be moved outside the area were undermining the trust’s efforts at local recruitment:
“Staffing is a real problem in the NHS and we’ve been working very hard here to try and recruit locally to combat that. When scare stories of closure or moving to other areas are touted it adds confusion and uncertainty to both patients, staff and potential employees.”
“Who is going to take a job that they think is already under threat? It’s just nonsense to rumourmonger about moving to places like Skelmersdale and very counter-productive.”
Despite recent improvements, the trust chief admits that the town’s A&E unit still faces significant pressures, which is why he also backs Labour’s campaign for a walk-in centre for Southport:
“I think it would help ease the burden here considerably to have a Southport walk-in centre in addition to the A&E. I know that the local CCG has its own funding issues but I also know what would help our A&E here, so I wish the campaign for the walk-in centre every success.”
Liz Savage, Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Southport, believes the trust is losing a valuable asset in the outgoing chief, who leaves at the end of this month to take up the same role for Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust, explaining:
“Silas has never hidden the harsh realities that face Southport and thanks to his efforts and those of the fantastic staff at the hospital things have improved in some areas but they clearly need significant backing by the government to operate properly – not the current breadcrumb funding it receives to help when a crisis develops.”
“If they ever do receive funding for a reorganisation of services, Southport must not lose out and we have made clear we would fight any loss or proposal to move the hospital out of the area, tooth and nail.”
“We look forward to working with the incoming chief executive Trish Armstrong-Child as openly and constructively as we have with Silas, who we wish all the best in his new role.”
Photo caption – Departing trust chief Silas Nicholls with Liz Savage and Cllr. Greg Myers.