Hospital fails waiting time targets

By Richard SmithA DEBT-RIDDEN health trust is failing to meet its targets to reduce patient waiting times and is facing "significant financial risks".

By Richard Smith

A DEBT-RIDDEN health trust is failing to meet its targets to reduce patient waiting times and is facing "significant financial risks".

A new report warned that Ipswich Primary Care Trust's deficit at the end of the 2004-05 financial year was estimated at almost £9.6million, with serious overspending on some key services.

It added the number of bed-blockers at Ipswich Hospital had risen, the target for patients having to wait less then four hours in its accident and emergency department had not been met and there were more than 450 people waiting longer for hospital appointments than it had envisaged.

There is a target of 98% of patients spending less than four hours waiting in accident and emergency departments, but the report showed Ipswich Hospital had only reached 95% at March 20.

It added there had also been a rise in the number of bed-blockers - patients who are well enough to be discharged, but who have to stay as there is no care available for them in the community - at the Heath Road hospital and it had again failed to meet its target.

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The report further revealed in February there were almost 300 of the trust's patients who had been waiting more than 13 weeks for an outpatients appointment at Ipswich Hospital, with orthopaedics, general medicine and surgery, dermatology, oral surgery and cardiology worst-affected.

It showed in February there were more than 150 of the trust's inpatients waiting longer than six months with orthopaedics, general medicine, oral and plastic surgery of most concern.

The report also detailed plans for the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service to employ five extra staff in the next 12 months after a significant increase in caseloads, which saw clinics cancelled in January and high numbers of children with severe disorders and urgent cases on waiting lists.

Jan Rowsell, a spokeswoman for the trust and Ipswich Hospital, said: "On some days we achieve the accident and emergency waiting targets and get 100%.

"But on other days we struggle because we have been exceptionally busy in the hospital since Christmas. We are seeing more people quicker than ever before."

Outlining the trust's deficit, the report said £2.4m was due to overspending on placements outside Suffolk for mental health and children services where treatments were not available in the county.

More than £900,000 was overspent on a variety of services, including community nursing, and the trust failed to budget for the extra cost of a consultant contract within children's services.

Julian Herbert, its finance and contracting director, warned that a range of external bodies had also notified the trust of extra costs.

"In total the deficit carried by the primary care trust, including repayment of brokerage, at the end of 2004-05 is forecast to be £9,580,000," he said.

The trust spokeswoman added at the start of the financial year health care services in east Suffolk had been expected to be £30m in the red.

"That figure has been reduced significantly downwards to £19.4m. Ipswich Primary Care Trust is part of Suffolk east health and social care system and we have put together a very detailed financial recovery plan which we are working towards to make sure we balance our books by 2007," she said.

The report will be discussed by Ipswich Primary Care Trust's board meeting on Friday.

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