Proposed partnership between Ipswich and Colchester hospitals “the only way” to secure service in north Essex

Colchester General Hospital could now join a partnership with Ipswich Hospital

Colchester General Hospital could now join a partnership with Ipswich Hospital - Credit: Gregg Brown

Ipswich Hospital bosses look set to play a major role in the running of ailing Colchester General Hospital as part of a dramatic bid to turn around the fortunes of the trust, it can be revealed today.

Colchester Hospital Chief Executive Frank Sims.

Colchester Hospital Chief Executive Frank Sims. - Credit: Gregg Brown

NHS officials say a “long-term partnership” between the two hospital trusts is the “only way” to secure services for patients in north east Essex in the future.

It comes after the latest Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection on Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust – which has been in special measures for more than two years – found services were not “of the required quality”.

Professor Sir Mike Richards, chief inspector of hospitals at the CQC, said: “We have consistently found poor and unsafe practices which place patients at risk of harm at this [Colchester] trust.

“There have not been enough signs of improvement for me to recommend a further extension to special measures. I do not have confidence in the ability of the trust’s current board to address the issues I have highlighted, though I do recognise that the chief executive has only been in post a short time. I believe a more radical solution is required to ensure the delivery of safe care at Colchester.”

The possibility of a partnership between Ipswich and Colchester – which would see staff with clinical and leadership expertise work across both organisations – was recommended by Sir Mike and the chief executive of NHS Improvement (formerly Monitor), Jim Mackey.

It has also been suggested that without that link with Ipswich, Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust faces having a trust special administrator imposed to bring the organisation up to scratch.

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The exact make up of the partnership is not yet known and both trusts have kept tight lipped on how much involvement there could be.

But it is expected that bosses at both trusts and the CQC and NHS Improvement will work together to draw up a plan.

In January, the Colchester hospital trust’s chief executive, Frank Sims, said the organisation was not clinically and financially sustainable and that it would seek partners to work with.

A statement from the hospital yesterday said the trust has worked alongside Ipswich Hospital leaders to see if “there is an opportunity for both organisations to work more closely on clinical collaboration”. The two trusts have worked together in the past.

Mr Sims said he was pleased that the CQC and NHS Improvement “recognised the improvements made so far” . He added : “We have highly professional and dedicated staff who can be proud of what they have achieved, often in extremely challenging circumstances. I want to thank them for their magnificent service and I know a real determination to provide good care for local patients will continue to be uppermost in their minds.”

Nick Hulme, chief executive of Ipswich Hospital, added: “Nick Hulme, chief executive of The Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust said: “ This will be a very exciting partnership where we will have to change, to work and think differently to bring lasting success. It will allow clinical teams to work together more closely to improve the care to the people we serve”.

Both trusts also insisted that patient care would remain their top priority.


Responding to the announcement yesterday of a potential partnership, Healthwatch Essex chief executive Dr Tom Nutt said: “We know from talking to patients and carers that the quality of care at Colchester has been mixed in recent years, and it’s important that the new partnership builds on the good care as well as addressing the areas where weaknesses have been identified.

“We believe that this latest announcement represents a logical next step in the improvement process for Colchester Hospital, and we are optimistic that it will lead to the sorts of improvements that are obviously required. Ipswich has both a good rating and reputation.”

Colchester MP Will Quince said that while leaders and staff at Colchester Hospital had worked hard after being placed into special measures in 2013, “things haven’t improved as quickly as any of us had hoped”.

He added: “The potential partnership with Ipswich gives us the opportunity to tackle long-standing issues at the hospital. We need to see not just a sharing of services, but also action from NHS England to address financial issues affecting both trusts.

“I will be seeking a meeting with the leadership at Ipswich Hospital Trust, stressing that we need to continue to have services provided at Colchester General Hospital, they support our campaign to keep our urology surgical unit, and that they have a plan to work with the staff at the hospital to continue delivering the high quality care received by so many in our town.”

Meanwhile, Andy Yacoub, Healthwatch Suffolk chief executive, said: “This announcement represents a logical next step in the improvement process for Colchester Hospital and is a positive reflection on the performance of Ipswich Hospital. After all, we know from talking to local people, that the hospital has a good reputation and is generally highly regarded by people in the county. We understand that local people may be concerned to hear of this news however partnerships, when managed well, can lead to benefits for all those concerned.”