JUDGING by her track record, MP Jackie Doyle-Price doesn’t pull any punches

JUDGING by her track record, MP Jackie Doyle-Price doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to health care.

In March, the 41-year-old Tory MP spoke out in Parliament over “poor leadership” at Basildon Hospital during a debate over healthcare in Essex.

It was one of the first times the Thurrock MP had publicly highlighted the hospital’s failings.

Now she has told the Echo why she’s not going to let up scrutinsing what’s going on at the hospital.

Despite a much-publicised hygiene scandal, criticism of maternity services and high “death rates”, plus outbreaks of the legionella bug, Mrs Doyle-Price has been among only a handful of politicians to speak out about the need for change.

The no-nonsense Sheffield-born politician said: “I’m not going to stop prodding the powers-that-be at the hospital trust until they do what they should do – improve standards of care.

“In my view, improvements aren’t happening fast enough. It wasn’t so long ago Basildon Hospital was very well respected – and it could be again.

“There’s no doubt about it, nurses, doctors and staff work hard and are under a lot of pressure, but, in my opinion, they are being let down by the management.

“There has been no accountability. There needs to be a real wake up attitude coming from the top that things can and will be done.

“The hospital’s leaders must be more engaging with the public, saying ‘we’re listening to you and this is what we are doing’.”

The hospital has been rocked by controversy since the October 2009 hygiene scandal when a spot check by the independent health regulators the Care Quality Commission found blood-spattered equipment, filthy mattresses and dirty toilets in A&E.

Since then, improvements have been made and a list of demands by the Commission met in full.

But Mrs Doyle-Price insists it hasn’t gone far enough yet. She said: “A lot of my constituents don’t want to go there, my postbag confirms that.”

Basildon Hospital is now entering a new chapter with the recruitment of Sir Peter Dixon, who took up the temporary post of chairman in April from outgoing chairman Michael Large.

Sir Peter, hailed as one of the most experienced and successful health leaders in the country, credited with turning around poor performing Colchester Hospital within 12 months.

Although she says she feels Basildon Hospital’s top man, chief executive Alan Whittle, should have resigned in the wake of the 2009 hygiene scandal, Mrs Doyle-Price says she is not on a witch hunt and wants to let health leaders get on with the job at hand.

But she stressed they musn’t rest on their laurels and must continue to improve where elderly and vulnerable patients are concerned.

She said: “We need to give Peter Dixon a chance to show what he can do.

“But again, I hope he focuses on making improvements at the top.

“I’ve had complaints from constituents about the treatment of elderly patients.

“I am fearful that some of the most vulnerable are not being fed and watered properly, simply because there is a lack of staff, or they are too overworked, to do these things.”

Alan Whittle was adamant in his response, insisting many improvements had been made at the Trust in the last 18 months.

He said: “Most notably, the mortality ratio. It is now 88.8 – bel of 100, and rated significantly lower than expected.

“Service improvement is a continual process. We have made substantial progress, but there is always more to be done.

“Nothing is more important to us than enhancing patient safety and improving our patients’ experience, and we are concentrating our resources in those areas.

“Jackie Doyle-Price recently met with our new chairman, and our director of nursing is also meeting her shortly to address how we can more quickly respond to concerns they raise on behalf of their constituents