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NHS: Royal Orthopaedic Hospital

Volume 684: debated on Monday 24 July 2006

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether National Health Service trusts and organisations in England have been reminded of the NHS Standards of Business Conduct, following the June 2005 Audit Commission report into the contracting arrangements of the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital, Birmingham, with Talquin Limited, which found that the NHS standards had been broken; and [HL6943]

Whether a National Health Service trust in England, which has seconded a member of staff to another trust or other NHS organisation in Wales is obliged to inform the receiving trust or organisation of an ongoing Audit Commission investigation relating to the seconded member of staff; and [HL6944]

What powers they have to intervene if a National Health Service trust board does not take action over a clear breach of the NHS Code of Accountability by an executive director; and [HL6945]

What information the Department of Health received during the Audit Commission investigation in 2005 at the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital into contracting arrangements with Talquin Limited; and when any such information was received; and [HL6946]

Whether a Minister was briefed during the Audit Commission investigation in 2004-05 at the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital into contracting arrangements with Talquin Limited regarding this investigation; and [HL6947]

Whether it is normal procedure for the Department of Health to request the secondment of a National Health Service trust chief executive connected with an Audit Commission investigation.[HL6948]

The report referred to in these questions was a specific review undertaken at the trust's request by the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Trust’s appointed external auditor. The NHS West Midlands strategic health authority (SHA) reports that there were no recommendations requiring action by the Department of Health.

Employment matters are the responsibility of the relevant local NHS organisations, particularly with regard to appropriate references for the individual concerned. However, the NHS West Midlands SHA confirms that the “receiving” NHS organisation was made aware of the circumstances of the individual concerned.

The Department of Health can be asked for a view by a current or prospective employer about the appropriateness of a chief executive under investigation taking on another NHS role. The department's advice takes account of the nature of the concern and any recommendations forthcoming from an audit inquiry of an NHS Management Code of Conduct investigation.

The department would want assurances that due process has been followed in any investigation and that all the relevant information has been made available to a prospective employer. Decisions about offering chief executives in this type of situation a secondment opportunity rests with the prospective employer.

According to departmental records no information was received by either Ministers or the department with regard to the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Trust and its contracting arrangements with Talquin Limited.

In the event of a primary care trust (PCT) or NHS trust not performing one or more of its functions adequately, or if there are significant failings in the way it is being run, then the Secretary of State may make an intervention order under Sections 84A and 84B of the National Health Service Act 1977. The Secretary of State also has powers under Section 17 of that Act to direct an NHS trust or PCT about the exercise of its functions whether as a sanction or otherwise. There are further powers under Sections 97C, 97D and 99 to direct an NHS trust or PCT in respect of its financial functions.

The Secretary of State has delegated her appointment functions for chairs and non-executive board members to the NHS Appointments Commission. The appointments may be terminated where it is not in the interests of the NHS, or it is not conducive to the good management of the NHS trust or PCT, for the individual to continue to serve. However, termination is only made after due process.