MANAGERS from a top performing NHS trust in Newcastle are set to help turn around East Lancashire’s failing hospitals.

The government-led scheme will echo the ‘super heads’ programme which has improved some of the worst schools in the country.

Each of the 11 hospital trusts placed in special measures in July have been partnered with a mentor trust, which will be offered financial bonuses for achieving good results.

Sir Leonard Fenwick, chief executive of Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, has already held discussions with Mark Brearley, his counterpart at East LancashireHospitals NHS Trust.

The Newcastle authority is regarded as one of the best in the country, in terms of its leadership, patient experience and standards and care.

Sir Leonard is the longest serving hospital chief executive in the NHS, after becoming a management trainee at the age of 18.

He worked his way up the ladder at various Newcastle hospitals and helped to lead a major merger of three facilities to create Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Trust, which won the Dr Foster Hospital of the Year award in 2004.

He received a knighthood in 2008.

Mr Brearley said: “The idea of working with other organisations isn’t alien to us and we don’t necessarily see it as a sign of weakness.

“At the moment we are delivering the things we said we’d deliver on, and are making good progress, but our aim now is to identify things they can help us with. They’ve also said they will take some learning from things that we do well.”

ELHT, which runs the Royal Blackburn and Burnley General hospitals, was placed in special measures after NHS inspectors made wide-ranging criticisms of the way it had been run.

In response, the trust has recruited 60 new nurses and healthcare assistants, plus nine midwives, and increased overnight cover on the wards.

It has also re-opened Ward 16 at Burnley to help ease pressure on the Blackburn site, and offered all complainant face-to-face meetings with clinicians.

Several changes have also been made to improve govrnance and leadership, including a more open and transparent approach to board meetings, where more issues are now discussed in public.

However, health secretary Mr Jeremy Hunt said the ‘capability’ of EHLT’s leadership was still under review, and changes would be made if necessary. He added: “For too long, patients have had to put up with poor care because it was inconvenient to expose and tackle failure.

“With the help of inspiring NHS leaders and their teams from leading hospitals, I am confident that we can get these hospitals out of special measures and on the road to recovery.”