WHEN Clare Panniker took over their reins at Basildon Hospital, she inherited a catalogue of failings.
From the day she started, in October, 2012, the former nurse knew the job was going to be far from easy She faced the glare of the media spotlight as the large number of needless deaths was investigated under the Government’s Keogh Review.
The hospital trust was one of 14 across the country to be placed in special measures and subject to regular and rigorous inspection and monitoring.
However, in less than two years, her leadership and committed staff have transformed the organisation from one plagued with controversy to a trust now rated “good” by the Care Quality Commission.
Thanks to the dedication, ambition and hardwork of Mrs Panniker and her team Basildon’s trust was the first to have the string of special measures sanctions removed.
Under the circumstances it might be tempting to ease off a little now, but Mrs Panniker remains determined as ever to continue improving standards.
She was met with cheers and tears of joy from staff at a lunchtime briefing as she revealed what she called “the start of a new exciting chapter”.
Mrs Panniker said: “For the staff it’s really motivating and encouraging. The really hard work they have put in has been recognised.
“This will actually do much more to improve things, because it is something really solid to build on. Our staff have worked tirelessly to raise standards and put care and compassion at the heart of everything we do.
“I’m pleased the CQC has noted the improvements we have made, but also recognise we still have more work to do to achieve our aim to be an outstanding hospital.”
Mrs Panniker is realistic, and admits it is unlikely Basildon Hospital will be rated “outstanding”
overall at its next CQC inspection, in three years time – no other trust in the country has to so so, yet She added: “I think it would be very ambitious to say we're going to do it in three years time, but I certainlywant to see more areas of our work achieve an ‘outstanding’ rating – as our maternity unit did this time.
“It’s really good to have achieved this in a short time, but there is a lot more to do.”
Her predecessor Alan Whittle finally gave in to calls to resign, after seeing the hospital go from scandal to scandal.
Glasgow-born Mrs Panniker, who now lives in London, came to Basildon with credentials which suggested she would be up to such a challenging job.
In the space of nine years, she turned around North Middlesex Hospital and oversaw the construction of new £123million building, When she started in 2003, North Middlesex had the worst MRSA infection rates in the country.
Mrs Panniker believes the quick turnaround at Basildon is down to the fact the trust started changing for the better soon after she arrived – not only because the trust was put in special measures.
She is now looking forward to a new era for the hospital and hopes it will become known for its success story rather than its historic failings.
Public confidence in the trust plunged in the wake of the Keogh Review, with the establishment of a Basildon branch of lobby group Cure the NHS and hundreds of families considering legal action against the hospital.
Mrs Panniker said: “I hope the CQC report gives a really positive message to the patients and the public – that this is a good hospital.
“We don’t get it 100 per cent right every time and I want to hear from people when we don’t, but I think this should boost confidence in the services we provide.”