Bosses at a failing hospital trust are paying an actor to teach staff how to talk if they are approached by NHS inspectors.
West Herts Hospitals Trust was put into special measures last year after the Care Quality Commission (CQC) found serious failings in the safety and quality of its care for patients, including untrained receptionists assessing how seriously unwell new arrivals at A&E were.
But the trust is now paying an unnamed thespian to give dozens of training sessions to staff in a bid to come out of special measures.
Hemel Hempstead MP Mike Penning said: “I am appalled.
“This is taking money away that should be spent on doctors, nurses, drugs and hospital beds so that the trust can give a false impression to the CQC.
“The demands being placed on our NHS are getting ever greater - but the trust’s response is to employ and actor.”
West Herts Hospitals Trust runs Hemel Hempstead Hospital, St Albans Hospital and Watford Hospital.
The leaked documents, sent to staff and seen by the Gazette, show that the coaching sessions are taking place across all three sites throughout July and August. Some sessions last for up to half a day.
The document says: “The Trust has organised for coaching sessions from a professional actor to assist WHHT staff members with preparing those who may be asked questions by the CQC during the inspection.
“We have has (sic) some great feedback from those who have attended the sessions already, it is open to everyone and available for those of you who would like to feel more confident about speaking to the CQC inspectors. “There’s lots of availability, especially for the drop-in sessions (you don’t need to book these, just come along). The half day sessions are for those that feel they need a long session, they will need to be booked.”
Edie Glatter, of the Dacorum Hospital Action Group, said: “It looks like the trust will do anything to get out of special measures.
“What patients want is an improvement in the services, not spending money on superficiality rather than substance and hospital services we can be proud of.”
West Herts Hospitals Trust has so far been unable to confirm who decided to employ the actor or how much ithas cost the organisation.
A spokesman said: “The improvements made over the last 18 months across all three hospitals have been incredibly impressive.
“Our staff deserve praise for their energy and commitment to providing the very best care for patients. It would be a huge shame if they didn’t feel able to tell the CQC inspectors about some of their many successes.
“Our last inspection was a difficult experience so we want them to help be more positive about the next one. The sessions are provided to help our staff articulate the improvements in their teams – with the focus very much on the ‘how’ and not the ‘what’.
“Making sessions available with a presentation expert has been a great way to get our staff feeling more confident. As far as the content of conversations with inspectors is concerned, our staff know that being open and honest is the key factor.”