New CEO's plan to turn around Northwick Park Hospital

Pippa Nightingale

Pippa Nightingale is the new chief executive having been a clinical midwife. She is a mother-of-three. - Credit: London North West University Healthcare Trust

Pippa Nightingale has become chief executive of London North West University Healthcare Trust with big plans to turn around the NHS body.

Last month it was revealed the organisation, which is in charge of Northwick Park Hospital, had again recorded a ‘requires improvement’ rating - the same grade it received in 2019. 

The Care Quality Commission noted that progress had been made but judged that it ‘requires improvement’ overall and in five of the six key areas of inspection. 

Recruitment, maternity and strategy are two of the greatest areas of concern. But with only four patients currently in Northwick Park with Covid, the trust is well positioned to move forward.

Ms Nightingale, a former nurse at the hospital, took over as chief executive on February 14 - too late to have any meaningful impact before the commission’s visit at the end of February and beginning of March. 

She remains hopeful that the trust can secure a ‘good’ rating at the unspecified time when the commission returns for the next inspection. 

In an exclusive interview with the Brent & Kilburn Times, she outlined her vision.

Was the inspection rating what you were expecting?

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Yes, it was exactly what I was expecting. I was pleased to see there had been many improvements particularly on the Ealing Hospital site. Nine of the domains had improved from ‘inadequate’ to ‘requires improvement’. Or from ‘requires improvement’ to ‘good’. They had all progressed which was really positive. We now don’t have any ‘inadequate’ scores.

The reason I was not surprised by the overall result (of ‘requires improvement’) was that I can see improvements have happened over the past three years, but I didn’t think they’d had long enough to raise it to a ‘good’ rating. It shows our commitment to the journey.

What could you bring to the role that has been missing in previous leaders?

I want to celebrate some of the amazing things that happen within the organisation. The staff can feel quite undervalued and not being recognised, so I am trying to be present… Being a nurse (by background) can make this easier. It has been great to work alongside people, see their challenges but also recognise what they are doing well. I want to commit to an improved culture. If we look after staff well they look after their patients well.

Why do they feel undervalued?

It is an organisation that has had many challenges. A lot of scrutiny. And poor ratings. That can make staff feel like they are not doing a good job even when they are (but there are wider problems). It is helping them recognise they have had challenges. They do really good things every day. 

What have you done since the inspection?

We have done a lot already. The commission found some equipment was broken, so we have replaced all of that. We had areas that have not had daily safety checks but that has been put right. All the things that needed doing immediately have been done. 

We are working towards a ‘good’ rating. 

Does the trust have the resources and manpower to get to a ‘good’ rating?

Yes. For the first time in years we are in a strong financial position and that is because of the work the hospital is doing and the income from the national NHS team. We are actively recruiting, with an emphasis on local employment, although there is a national shortage in some areas. We currently have a 9 per cent vacancy rate. In some areas we don’t have any vacancies but in others it is harder. There is a national challenge to recruit midwives. 

Has maternity been badly hit?

Yeah, it has a 23 per cent vacancy rate, which is much higher than we want and we have to work in different ways to make sure we can provide safe care. 

How can things improve longer term?

The quality metrics are going in the right direction. There is a great opportunity to deliver some of the longer term staple improvements which is my aim for the organisation. That is when it can make it easier to recruit people. We have some loyal staff though who work here and will continue to, which is really important. 

My ambition is to provide good quality care for the population it is serving. We want to be high performing. There is no reason why we can’t do that.