Hospital’s status bid halted by financial ‘glitches’

FINANCIAL glitches have forced health chiefs at a Suffolk hospital to postpone plans to become a foundation trust.

West Suffolk Hospital hoped to sign off its bid for foundation trust status in April this year, giving bosses greater financial and operational freedom from the Department of Health.

But the independent regulator, Monitor, has recommended the application is postponed after small discrepancies emerged in the trust’s tariff system.

Stephen Graves, chief executive of the Bury St Edmunds hospital, said the flaws in the system in which it charges NHS Suffolk Primary Care Trust (PCT) for surgical activity and patient treatment, had led the trust to under-record patient activity and income.

But he added these have now been corrected.

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“There were a few glitches in our financial reporting system,” he said. “The external finance team have said what we have done is correct.

“Just to make sure there aren’t any more problems, they want to see more months’ financial figures to make sure we have got it absolutely right.”

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Mr Graves is set to meet representatives from Monitor tomorrow to discuss how long it could be before the application is finalised.

If it achieves foundation trust status, the hospital will be run by patients, the public and staff and will be able to invest in developing its own services.

Under new Government plans, all NHS trusts will have to become financial trusts during the next three years.

But the hospital is also preparing to take control of all contracting services in west Suffolk when the PCT’s commissioning power is abolished in April 2013.

As it prepares to run district nurses, health visitors and community physiotherapists, Mr Graves said staff needed extra time to get the right systems in place.

“We are very excited about this because it would be very positive for patients in this county,” he said.

“It might be worth waiting a while longer until community integration has happened then, hopefully, we can achieve foundation trust status.”

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