THE HEAD of a Dorset health organisation has admitted staff were ‘let down’ by failures at the top level.

Regulator Monitor placed the Dorset HealthCare University NHS Foundation Trust under ‘special measures’ last year after raising concerns about its governance.

Particular concerns were raised about the Minterne Ward at Forston Clinic near Dorchester, which has now been reopened as the Waterston Assessment Unit following a £1million refurbishment.

The trust’s chief executive Ron Shields told a meeting of the Dorset Health Scrutiny Committee he was ‘optimistic’ that the special measures would be lifted by the early summer as the organisation made progress in tackling the majority of the issues raised by Monitor.

He said ‘dramatic’ changes had been made to the trust board, including the appointment of new chairman Ann Abraham, and that of 331 areas identified in its action plan, only 23 were outstanding.

When pressed by the committee for more details on the failures Monitor identified, Mr Shields responded: “The most serious shortcoming was one of the board being falsely assured about the quality of services that were being delivered on a range of fronts.”

Mr Shields conceded that the findings of failure by Monitor and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) had been ‘fairly damning’ but said he was confident that the trust was now back on track and added that none of the blame for the failings could be laid at the door of front line staff.

He said: “It’s not fair on front line staff.

“The governance processes around how the organisation has been managed have let them down.”

Councillor Janet Dover told the committee that she had been a non executive director at the trust prior to 2005 and the organisation had developed an excellent reputation.

She said there was no reason why, with the right leadership, it could not reach those high standards again.

Cllr Dover said: “It appalls me that the trust I put a great deal of effort into has fallen so low but I’m absolutely convinced that it can regain the ground and be one of the best trusts in Dorset.”

Cllr Mike Lovell questioned whether ‘a certain amount of complacency’ had set in that resulted in the failures identified in the trust’s governance.

Committee chairman Ron Coatsworth added: “We have had problems in the past and I think we want to see the back of them.”