'I knocked on the door and asked why the TV hadn't been fixed': How a new hands-on governor at Blackpool Victoria Hospital plans to stand up for patients

One of the new governors at Blackpool Victoria Hospital said he plans to hold public surgeries so patients and staff can voice their concerns.

Tuesday, 11th February 2020, 5:00 pm
Updated Wednesday, 12th February 2020, 12:40 pm

Steven Gratrix said some people, including medics, don't even know he and his fellow governors exist, and now plans to break down that barrier.

The 63-year-old son of the late former Blackpool footballer Roy Gratrix, who played more than 400 games for the Seasiders in the '50s and '60s, said: "I will probably sit on the mezzanine floor with PALS [Patient Advice and Liaison Services] behind me and that's for any comments, views, opinions, ideas, and suggestions.

"I can't go and say, 'Why have you not gone and done anything about this lady's waiting list?' But I can say, as a governor, a few people have mentioned waiting times for operations, et cetera. Is there any reason for this? Have you notified them?"

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Steven Gratrix, who was elected as a governor at Blackpool Victoria Hospital in September last year (Picture: Steven Gratrix)

Mr Gratrix, who worked as a civil service manager and is also an emergency instructor, including in underwater helicopter rescues, said in a nod to his dad's incredible career that he doesn't like seeing the NHS used as a "political football".

And he backed the Vic's new regime, which has been tasked with turning the hospital's fortunes around after another disappointing report from the health industry regulator Care Quality Commission (CQC).

A number of bosses have changed in recent months, including chief executive Kevin McGee, who was drafted in on a permanent basis shortly before inspectors ruled the Vic 'requires improvement' for a second consecutive time.

Ann Ford, the deputy chief inspector of hospitals, said at the time it was "disappointing" the trust "had not made any significant improvement and in some areas performance had declined".

Steven Gratrix, right, with comedian Bobby Ball during a visit to the Vic (Picture: Steven Gratrix)

She said: "In response, our rating of well led has deteriorated to Inadequate as we found that the inspection team found that not all leaders had the knowledge and capacity to lead some of the services and effectively implement change.”

Mr Gratrix said the turnaround has been so rapid he is already looking forward to a fresh inspection, and he praised executives for having an open door policy when it comes to hearing ideas that could lead to further improvement.

"I don't feel like the place needs digging out of a hole," he said. "I'm enjoying being involved and being in the right place at the right time, and I'm enjoying being local and having a voice."

A hands-on governor, Mr Gratrix has spent time in the hospital getting to know his way around, how the NHS works and, perhaps crucially, how it can be improved.

Within minutes of rapping on the maintenance department's door to ask why a long broken television in the discharge lounge hadn't been fixed yet, it was mended, he said.

He likened the situation to permafrost - ground that remains frozen year round - and added: "If you look at it on a map, it goes over all the area at a steady level, but if you look at it in 3D it's at different directions and levels.

"If you change the environment and climate of an organisation, that permafrost is going to get mushy and melt a bit, and things can pass through. You can put new structures in."

Governors at the Vic are tasked with holding its bosses to account, and making sure the voices of members of the NHS trust running it are heard.

It is free to become a member, and membership is open to those aged over 12 and living locally, though Mr Gratrix, who lives in Larbreck and represents Fylde as governor, said anyone can attend his surgeries, which he will advertise through The Gazette.

To become a member of the Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which also runs the Clifton Hospital in St Annes, go online to www.bfwh.nhs.uk or pick up a leaflet from the Vic's reception.