Hospital facing waiting list pressures

HOSPITALS in Suffolk facing major staff and ward cutbacks are set to come under even more pressure to meet to new Government waiting list times, it has emerged.

HOSPITALS in Suffolk facing major staff and ward cutbacks are set to come under even more pressure to meet to new Government waiting list times, it has emerged.

If the new targets for inpatient and outpatient waits were imposed now, both Ipswich Hospital and West Suffolk Hospital would dramatically fail to hit them.

According to the East of England Strategic Health Authority (SHA), 507 people in the county had to wait more than 11 weeks for an outpatient appointment in September, compared to a planned target of 46.

Meanwhile 774 had to wait more than 20 weeks for an inpatient admission, compared to the planned number of 165.


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But last night hospital bosses said they were meeting current targets - and claimed they would be able to meet the new deadlines when they are introduced in March.

The figures, published in a performance report to be considered by the SHA at a meeting on Thursday, have led to fears that Suffolk's ailing health system will be put under more pressure as hospitals struggle to cope with increasing demands.

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Prue Rush, from the Ipswich Hospital Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) Forum, said: “It will be very interesting to see the targets come March and we will be looking very carefully to see if the hospital has done what it says.

“It is a huge deficit that they have got to reverse. Obviously there will have to be a lot of hard work between now and March to put it right and we hope they won't be cutting corners to do it.”

David Ruffley, Conservative MP for Bury Edmunds, said as far as he was aware waiting times at West Suffolk hospital had improved but called on the SHA to give guidance.

“If the information is right then the SHA should tell us what it is going to do about it,” he said. “In the last five years they have presided over mismanagement and it's about time they got to grips with what is going on in Suffolk.”

By March next year the Department of Health wants 97% of people to have a maximum wait of 11 weeks from GP referral to a first outpatient consultation and no more than 20 weeks before a start to treatment.

Last night a spokeswoman for Ipswich Hospital said the increased waiting times were not a direct result of the recent ward closures and cuts to beds and staff - and said current targets were being met.

“At the moment we have a 13-week target for outpatients and a 26-week target for inpatients which is being met,” she said. “What the SHA is measuring in this latest report is performance targets for March 2007, when there will be a target of a 20-week wait for elective care, 13 weeks for diagnostic tests and 11 weeks for outpatients.

“We will do our best to accomplish that and have a very strong track record in achieving performance standards. We take immediate action if we think we will not meet our targets and have a range of options available from extra clinics to extending opening times.”

Gwen Nuttall, operations director for West Suffolk Hospital, said: “At the end of March 2006 we achieved our inpatient waiting times which means we had no patients waiting over six months or 26 weeks. Our next target is having no patients waiting longer than 20 weeks by March 2007 and we have no reason to believe we won't hit that.

“As far as outpatient waiting times are concerned we had no-one waiting over 13 weeks at the end of March 2006. It is challenging but we are on course to meet the target of achieving a maximum wait of 11 weeks by March 2007.”

craig.robinson@eadt.co.uk

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