Examination of Witnesses (Questions 160
MONDAY 19 NOVEMBER 2001
160. I would like to move on to appointments.
I am glad we are getting away from the present system, I find
it rather unusual that you could send out an appointment to a
patient and it was an open loop system, where you get no feedback,
so that letter could be gone to a house where the person has left,
the person could have moved away or even died. I am told the amount
people that do not turn up is quite high and it seems a bit late
in the day to go into this booking system. I do urge the booking
system to have people confirm whether they are going to attend
so that they can get tied into a system.
(Mr Crisp) Yes, yes.
161. The system you are going to use, it seems
to me we do not have a single consistent roll- out system for
every hospital in the country?
(Mr Crisp) Well, we do on booked admissions, Mr Fillingham
can fill us in on that. We now understand how to do this much
better, the standard information system and things like that,
we are literally rolling that out.
162. If we look at that, I can understand with
administrators where they have money there is always a difficulty
of where you are going to spend the money, are you going to spend
it on patient care or on paperwork. There is a lot of pressure
to spend it on patient care and the paperwork system gets pushed
to the back of the queue when it comes to resourcing, this has
been the case, why have we not ring-fenced the money that needs
to go into the new systems?
(Mr Crisp) Specifically and partly for the reasons
you have just talked about, we have ring-fenced it for this booked
admissions system, so there is money following it into the system.
We need to drive it in. You are quite right, what is happening
in the NHS is we have actually low costs on the overheads of the
systems, as this report demonstrates, because we have tended to
put money straight into the clinical issues.
163. This choice of hospital scenario, there
is obviously good reason why we are not going to get a choice
of hospital because if we are told exactly how hospitals are doing
and what the survival rates are that does not fit well with the
hospitals and clinicians particularly and they are going to fight
like hell to stop that information going out, so we are looking
at the producers rather than the customers.
(Mr Crisp) That is exactly what we are trying not
to do. That is the change which is going through. The NHS Plan
was set up specifically to design a service around the patient,
and that means precisely what you are talking about, shifting
from a producer focus to a customer focus. All the things we are
doing at the moment to get patients more involved, the provision
of more information, the question of where we can extend choice
at the moment, which we need to do carefully because it must succeed,
we cannot afford to fail, all of those things are about moving
in the direction you are talking about.
164. One of the reports today was with regard
to survival rates for heart bypass operations.
(Mr Crisp) This is Dr Foster.
165. Yes. I challenge you to go back over every
report that has been issued and show me a hospital somewhere at
the bottom of the league where the chairman of the trust does
not say, "Well, it is not the full picture, you know, because
underlying that there are difficulties because we are the most
deprived area, we have the hardest cases", there is some
reason why they do not really belong at the bottom of the league.
Someone has to be at the bottom of the league but they never admit
to why they are there. Why?
(Mr Crisp) That behaviour, because we have looked
abroad at this, has been exactly what we have seen when the same
thing happens in the States and so on. Two things happen, people
immediately want to explain in the way you are talking about because
that in a sense is human nature and some of it, of course, is
right, some of it does justify the position. But, secondly, people
then have looked at that information in a different way for the
first time because somebody is holding a mirror out to them and
you have seen change. The evidence from abroad is that change
has happened when this has happened because you are putting a
new pressure and a new dynamic into the system.
166. So if you have a hospital which has the
lowest survival rate in the country, where clinicians have walked
in and had a vote of no confidence in the management, and you
have a hospital which really has been going wrong on a number
of occasions, how much power do you have to sack the chief executive?
(Mr Crisp) I suspect you are talking about a specific
case and we have made it clear that in a particular case if things
are not improving within a timescale, which is a reasonable thing
for us to say, then we will expect the management to be changed,
and we have the ability to make that happen. The contract is with
the employer but we can reasonably expect to see that change is
167. When you say you have the ability, do you
have the will to do it, because I think in some of these instances
you are going to have to drive forward? Can you sack a chief executive,
chairman of a trust and suspend a trust? Do you have that power?
(Mr Crisp) There are some powers. The first point
which needs to be made is that the chief executives actually work
for individual trusts and their employment is with individual
trusts, however, and I would have to check the exact powers, we
have the right to intervene in cases where the Secretary of State
deems this is the appropriate thing to do, and we can make changes
in the management of the trust. I will have to give you the actual
chapter and verse around that but, more importantly than that,
at the point at which trust boards have maybe lost the confidence
of the Department of Healthand if you look around the country
you will see examples of where this has happenedthen decisions
are taken and we move on.
168. So we are prepared to do it and grab this
nettle and say, "Yes, we are going to drive forward these
changes against all the vested interests"?
(Mr Crisp) Absolutely, where that is the right thing
Mr Jenkins: I look forward to the day.
169. Can I refer you to paragraph 3.5? "Under
the NHS Plan every general practitioner practice and primary care
group and trust must put in place, by April 2001, systems to monitor
referral rates." How has that gone? Are they all in place
and what is the feed-back we are getting from them?
(Mr Crisp) This is from April 2001. I have not asked
the question as you have asked it and we will not get the details
on that for some time yet. I am not aware there is a problem with
it. That is not one of the things which is flagging up on our
systems saying there is a problem, but we will not get the full
picture because it is only April 2001.
170. So when will you get the full picture?
(Mr Crisp) We will get it at the end of the year,
the end of March. We will know where we are. If there are particular
problems, our systems pick them up earlier in the year, so I am
not aware there are particular problems.
171. Perhaps you would be good enough to let
us know what the outcome is.
(Mr Crisp) Right.
172. Under referral pools, Mr Osborne, my colleague,
asked if pressure was being applied to GPs and there was the £1,000
example. I would rather look at it the other way and want to know
if pressure is not being applied to GPs. Why, if we are not making
GPs refer to pools, are we not putting in place a system where
there are targets within the NHS Plan so that referrals should
be to pools for the consultants then at a particular hospital
to share them out, obviously as is appropriate with clinical expertiseand
you talked about expertise in shoulders and so onbut surely
the consultants can then take that decision as a pool?
(Mr Crisp) We have actually got a lot of targets and,
as you will be aware, from time to time we have been criticised
for having too many specific targets. How we are approaching this
is saying, we have to embed this in people's behaviour, not just
whether or not they hit targets, and therefore we are firstly
making clear we think this is the right way for us to go but,
secondly, encouraging GPs and consultants to draw up referral
protocols. So what happens in your particular patch has been discussed
with the GPs and consultants so we can provide best practice,
and there is a Steps guide which David and colleagues have produced
which helps do that. But actually we have to embed it in people's
behaviour rather than just instruct people, because we know that
does not work.
173. Your colleague is nodding furiously and
looks as if he would like to add something.
(Mr Fillingham) I think that is absolutely right.
It is about making change sustainable. The way to do that is to
engage staff in it and get them to want to make the changes because
they can see it is in the best interests of patients. Sometimes
that will mean a pool referral, that is quite an important way
to go. Sometimes it will be alternative forms of provision without
patients going to a hospital consultant at all. The exciting way
forward is to get GPs, consultants, hospital managers, primary
care groups, sitting down together to plan the system in a way
174. I do not doubt that referral protocols
are very good and important and the right way to go, what I am
keen to see is that you are monitoring the increase of pool referrals
and that you have of yourself, if not for public consumption,
some clear standards, clear targets, which you want to see achieved.
Because otherwise it seems to me that one can say, "Let's
agree it on a local basis" but we will not actually then
go in the right direction.
(Mr Fillingham) Absolutely. The way we are doing that
is by getting local organisations to have ownership of those plans
and targets. So hospital trusts were asked to produce outpatient
improvement plans, to agree them with the local primary care groups
and issues like pooled resources were included.
175. Paragraph 3.6: I do not know whether you
were, but I certainly was staggered to see that 20 per cent of
the consultants considered that 80 per cent of the referrals were
(Mr Crisp) Yes.
176. Why? Are you not staggered by that?
(Mr Crisp) Yes. I then wanted to ask the question
which speciality it was and whether it was orthopaedics where
I am less staggered actually because in certain parts of the country
people have been referring to consultants who then refer back
to physiotherapists, as I just said, and the most appropriate
result might be to a physiotherapist in the first place. It is
a very good example of where the surgeons and the GPs need to
get together and agree what they are doing, GPs may be thinking
they are referring to a consultant to get a physiotherapy appointment.
Do you see what I mean?
177. What you seem to be saying is that within
certain disciplines there is likely to be a large percentage of
wholly inappropriate referrals. Is that correct?
(Mr Crisp) I think there may be if do we not have
the local referrals protocol in place.
178. I accept you are working to change it.
What you are saying is that within certain specialties up to 80
per cent of referrals may be inappropriate, we are wasting 80
per cent of initial consultant's time.
(Mr Crisp) Yes. I was surprised to see that, that
is the reason why.
179. You are telling us that is the reason why,
are you not?
(Mr Crisp) I am telling you I think that is the reason
why. I was trying to give you an example of where I thought there
was a reason for it. I am surprised to see that 80 per cent figure.
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