A&E targets missed at Colchester General Hospital while trust ends 2016/17 with £18.9m deficit

Colchester Hospital. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Colchester Hospital. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

Almost 14,000 patients waited longer than four hours to be seen at Colchester General Hospital’s emergency department last year, new figures reveal.

According to the trust’s latest annual report, the number of people attending A&E increased by more than 5% in 2016/17 compared to the previous year, jumping from 82,189 to 87,313.

The rise in demand has meant the hospital missed its target of dealing with 95% of patients within four hours of arrival at A&E by 11%, although this is an improvement on 2015/16.

The papers also show the hospital failed to hit all wait-time goals for cancer patients.

The trust ended the last financial year with a deficit of £18.9 million, which was significantly better than its planned deficit of £31.7 million but was only possible due to cash injection of £16.5m from the Government’s Sustainability and Transformation Fund.

The hospital is predicting to end 2017/18 with a deficit of £22.1m, assuming it can find £17m in savings, including £6m in surgery costs.

Within the annual report, bosses recognise the need to find a long-term solution to these financial difficulties without reliance on handouts and stringent cost-cutting measures.

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It reads: “Longer term, the trust will need to do more than deliver cost improvement plans and efficiency savings to return to a financially sustainable position and improve standards of care.

“A longer term view is needed to ensure it has plans in place to address the demand pressure on services due to an increasing local population, with particular growth in the patient categories that rely most heavily on health services (such as young and old people) and service delivery and demand challenges due to increasing prevalence of long-term conditions.

“The challenges these present mean there will need to be closer working with other health and care bodies.”

The proposed merger between Colchester and Ipswich is expected to save the hospitals £40m in running costs over five years.

Leaders also hope work going on through the Suffolk and North East Essex Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) will help.

A spokesman for Colchester General Hospital said the trust’s “primary focus continues to be on patients”.

He added: “The trust continues to face many of the same challenges as it did in 2016/17, including financial and shortages of key clinical staff, but we are not using those reasons as excuses for failing to make significant improvements.

“We have made tangible progress to benefit patients and we continue to build on that in 2017/18.”

Staff are waiting to hear if enough has been done to pull Colchester out of special measures following its inspection from the Care Quality Commission in July.

Member of the public are invited to attend the trust’s annual members’ meeting on Thursday in the hospital’s Postgraduate Medical Centre from 3-5pm.

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