Sir Julian Hartley visits Kettering General Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

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03 November 2023

Julian Hartley
Chief Executive

I recently had the privilege of visiting Kettering General Hospital NHS Foundation Trust to gain insights into the key challenges the trust faces, as well as the exceptional work being done to enhance patient care. This acute trust has c.5000 staff, providing inpatient and outpatient treatment, accident and emergency (A&E) facilities and specialist services.

I first met with trust chief executive Deborah Needham and her team to delve into their main challenges – in particular, how they’re working to improve patient care following a recent (unannounced) focused CQC inspection.

We began at Skylark – a bright and welcoming 22-bed ward. It was evident that everything on the ward is tailored to put children and parents at ease during their stay; for instance, a parents’ room on the ward acts as a private space where they can take care of personal needs while remaining near their child. I was particularly interested in the simulation suite, which allows doctors, nurses, and other staff members to practice and improve skills in a realistic and controlled on-site environment.

The ward places a strong emphasis on patient-centred care, demonstrated in the recent production of a ‘Parents’ Journal’. This was created in response to feedback and involvement of parents who previously used the service. The journal is offered to all parents, allowing them to keep their own record of the people and/or services involved in their child’s care, fostering a collaborative environment.

The team didn’t shy away from acknowledging the challenges they face on the ward. They said providing mental health services for children is one of their main challenges, explaining that this can require more specialist staff to meet patient needs which is not often readily available.

The tour continued into the hospital’s emergency departments (ED) which recently expanded their children’s department due to increasing patient numbers. The trust acknowledges need for improvement, particularly in the main ED, and as part of the New Hospital Programme it’s been promised a fully funded, improved and expanded hospital. Main construction is yet to commence but will begin with the building of a new energy centre, due to be completed by 2025. 

Boarding on wards was highlighted as a challenge thanks to rising numbers of ED attendances as patients struggle to get GP appointments. Challenges such as length of stay, particularly with pathway three patients, also represent added pressure for the trust.

Despite these challenges, great work continues to be done. The trust is currently best in the UK for gastroenterology research and regional safety in maternity care, further demonstrating its commitment to providing the best care for its patients.

In my visit to Kettering General Hospital, I witnessed a team dedicated to the highest standards of care. Despite challenges and some knock-backs, the trust’s commitment to make improvements and keep patients’ care at the forefront is evident.

About the author

Julian Hartley profile picture

Julian Hartley
Chief Executive

Sir Julian Hartley joined as chief executive in February 2023, having been chief executive of Leeds Teaching Hospitals since 2013, where he led a major programme of culture change and staff engagement to deliver improved quality, operational and financial performance.

Julian’s career in the NHS began as a general management trainee and he worked in a number of posts before progressing to a board director appointment at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Trust.

In 2019 Julian was asked to be the executive lead for the interim NHS People Plan, having previously worked as managing director of NHS Improving Quality, and in 2022 he was awarded Knight Bachelor for services to healthcare in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. Read more

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