THE top doctor at North Staffordshire's main hospital has warned that any 'bad apple practices' by Stafford health staff will be weeded out if his trust is allowed to take over the county town's complex.
The University Hospital of North Staffordshire is bidding to run parts of Stafford Hospital under plans which will see the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust wound up and childbirth and other key services switching to the Potteries.
But at yesterday's annual meeting of the UHNS, audience members voiced fears that the Stoke-on-Trent hospital could be 'infected' with unsafe practices from Stafford where up to 1,200 deaths were linked to neglect.
Medical director Robert Courteney-Harris – just back from a year-long secondment at Stafford – said: "We all want common high standards right across Staffordshire and if our trust does provide services from Stafford Hospital, whoever delivers them will be expected to do so to the same standards that are delivered here.
"If they are not prepared to do that, we will not be recruiting or employing them. We will be very clear that in those circumstances we will deal with it."
He was responding to a question from Ian Syme, co-ordinator of campaign group North Staffs Healthwatch, who said: "Stafford Hospital could become a poisoned chalice for us up here.
"I have heard a lot of lies about the UHNS coming from the Stafford area. They are particularly resistant to change.
"Down there are still bad apple practices and there could also be bad apple people. How will you ensure they do not infect the UHNS?"
Trust chairman John MacDonald told the audience at the North Staffordshire Medical Institute in Hartshill: "There are bad practices at Stafford as at any hospital but there is also good practice.
"Make no mistake if we do not get it right at Stafford, the UHNS will catch a cold."
Earlier chief executive Mark Hackett 'debunked a number of myths' he felt had been publicly circulating about the transfer of services and the ability of his trust to cope.
He said: "Our recommendations will provide high-quality, world-class care for the long-term.
"We must step up to our responsibilities to support other hospitals.
"We would be expanding the range of services at Stafford so patients will be able to stay in the town rather than coming to UHNS as they have been doing in droves because of quality.
"But some will still have to come up here to have the quality of specialism you get in bigger centres."
In debunking the 'myths' Mr Hackett said:
The UHNS had a significantly lower than average mortality rate;
UHNS patients would not be treated in Stafford unless they specifically asked for that;
There was 'lots of capacity' in UHNS maternity centre to deliver the Stafford babies – and working practices would change to accommodate them;
The unit had not closed to mums-to-be for more than two years;
The transfer had not been put forward for financial reasons as it would not improve UHNS budgets.