EXCLUSIVE: New SLHT administrator does not think Lewisham A&E closure will affect Princess Royal’s performance

PUBLISHED: 17:38 29 May 2013 | UPDATED: 17:38 29 May 2013

Caroline Taylor outside the Princess Royal University Hospital in Farnborough. Pic by Keith Larby

Caroline Taylor outside the Princess Royal University Hospital in Farnborough. Pic by Keith Larby


It is one of the most difficult jobs in the NHS but Caroline Taylor has taken on the role of administrator of the troubled South London Healthcare Trust (SLHT) on a salary of £165,000-a-year.

South London Healthcare Trust fact box

Overall debt - £207 million.

Formed on April 1, 2009.

The A&E and maternity department at Queen Mary’s Hospital in Sidcup closed down in late 2010.

90.6 per cent - number of patients in February, the most recent figures published, who were seen within four hours of arrival at the two A&E units. The target is 95 per cent.

The trust, for now, encompasses the Princess Royal Hospital in Farnborough, Queen Mary’s in Sidcup and Queen Elizabeth in Woolwich.

She will become implementation director when the trust dissolves on October 1 this year. The Princess Royal’s services will be run by King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

We asked her about the challenge she is facing, the future of Queen Mary’s and the questionable financial history at her former employer NHS Croydon.

n What do you think is the biggest task in your new role?

Reducing hospital waiting times. We have not been meeting our four-hour waiting times although we have been improving in the past few months. Patient care is the most important thing for me and we need to find ways to meet these waiting times. It’s not just about targets.

We need to assess if people really need to be in A&E, the availability of beds and how good we are at planning patients’ discharges.

n Will this be difficult to achieve if the judicial review to save Lewisham’s A&E is not successful?

If Lewisham A&E does close down, it won’t be for a couple of years yet. It is true the Princess Royal will have to take on some of the burden, as will Queen Elizabeth, but there will be plenty of time to assess how this will affect us.

I don’t think the other sites will be overstretched despite the extra volume of people they will be taking on, we’ll have to find ways to improve efficiency.

n Is October 1 a realistic date for the dissolution of the trust amid rumours that King’s is getting cold feet about taking on the Princess Royal’s services?

King’s is still going to take on the services but these things take time. There is no truth that they are thinking about pulling out of the deal and people from King’s have been coming to Bromley to answer residents’ and patients’ questions about the takeover.

The judicial review into Lewisham A&E shouldn’t hold up what happens with everything else and we fully expect the trust to be dissolved on October 1.

n Will staff lose their jobs after the trust is dissolved?

Since previous administrator Matthew Kershaw announced it will be dissolved, some people have taken on voluntary redundancies. At the start of October there will be a small number of compulsory redundancies across the sites but we can’t be sure of numbers yet. We’ll be doing our best to keep good staff.

n How will you ensure mistakes of the past will not be repeated?

I like to look at them as problems rather than mistakes. The main thing is that the trust was not sustainable and the debt will be completely written off when the trust dissolves, which will give all the sites a fresh start.

SLHT failed for a whole number of reasons. There are now better financial controls in place which will stop the same problems being repeated down the line.

n Due to the financial mismanagement of SLHT can you explain what went on during your time with NHS Croydon? (When Mrs Taylor was chief executive the organisation said it had a £5.5million surplus in the financial year 2010/11, when in fact there was a £22.4m deficit. She refused to answer questions in front of a Joint Overview and Scrutiny Committee, which criticised her and other senior managers.)

I don’t believe I have any more questions to answer. I disagree with the findings of the committee and I was interviewed by an independent investigation a year ago and told them everything they wanted to know. I don’t believe I’ve done anything wrong and this will not affect the work I do in this role.”

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