Hospital regains three star status

A HOSPITAL chief executive who promised to reverse the fortunes of his health trust has achieved his goal and regained the prized three-star status of which his unit was stripped last year.

A HOSPITAL chief executive who promised to reverse the fortunes of his health trust has achieved his goal and regained the prized three-star status of which his unit was stripped last year.

Although the West Suffolk Hospital narrowly missed targets set for inpatient and cancer waiting times, John Parkes praised staff who made the turnaround possible.

The hospital in Bury St Edmunds is now classed by the Commission for Health Improvement (CHI) as one of the best in the country.

The news comes after eight of nine key targets set by the Government, on issues such as financial management and total time spent in accident and emergency, were met during the last year.

The hospital was also judged on 32 other categories, including cleanliness and infection control, in which an average or better than average score were achieved in all but three.

"This is the best possible news we could have had. Thanks to the sustained hard work and commitment of our excellent staff, we are back on track and everyone in the local community can be proud of this success," said Mr Parkes.

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"I believe that as a result of all the work undertaken, we are in a much stronger position today, compared with 18 months ago, to sustain our three star status. What we do not want to be doing is dipping back down and up again. Now we are here, we need to do the best we can to stay at three stars."

Although the hospital fell short of meeting a key target on cancer waiting times, Mr Parkes said this was due to figures inherited at the end of last year, when only 78% of patients were seen by a specialist within two weeks of referral.

Now, the chief executive said, 99% of patients fall into this category, giving an average score for the year of 92%, just under the 95% target.

"This demonstrates a huge improvement in terms of the star ratings. We have underachieved, but the figures show the right direction of travel, which for me is the key marker," added Mr Parkes.

"But this whole process is not just about hitting numeric targets, but the quality of service we are providing."

The hospital was stripped of its three star status just weeks after Mr Parkes' appointment last spring when a deficit of nearly £1m was recorded.

But ending the current year with a surplus has helped boost West Suffolk's CHI rating back to three stars, which will now allow the unit to apply for foundation hospital status.

Foundation hospitals have the opportunity to be free from Whitehall control and the aim is to allow the best hospitals to innovate and improve services, and free up time and money for the government to improve the worst NHS services.

Meanwhile, Suffolk West PCT gained a rating of two stars in the CHI report. Chief executive Tony Ranzetta attributed the lack of a third star to the organisation's failure to break even in the last year.

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