Hospital standards attacked by regulator

THE trust that runs Colchester General Hospital has been threatened with top-level intervention from its independent regulator unless it improves its services to patients.

Roddy Ashworth

THE trust that runs Colchester General Hospital has been threatened with top-level intervention from its independent regulator unless it improves its services to patients.

But yesterday bosses at the Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust (CHUFT) refuted criticism from Monitor and said it was on track to hit agreed targets after a crisis period at the beginning of the year.

Monitor, the UK's foundation trust regulator, accused CHUFT of failures to comply with healthcare standards, failure to cooperate with other NHS bodies, failures in overall governance and failure in general duty to act effectively, efficiently and economically.

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It warned that the trust was in breach of its foundation agreement.

Monitor said that the CHUFT had failed to ensure that patients referred for surgery underwent their procedures within 18 weeks and had subsequently incurred a red rating for governance, the worst performance by any foundation trust against that target.

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It also said the trust had failed to keep A&E waiting times below four hours, had missed targets for cancer patients, had an unacceptable mortality rate and was failing to address poor patient satisfaction.

The trust has admitted it fell into crisis in January and February of this year when it was consistently overwhelmed with an unusually high number of A&E patients, leading to a deterioration in the rate at which emergencies were dealt with.

The number of beds required to deal with the influx of emergency patients led to CHUFT being forced to postpone some pre-booked surgery as it ran out of capacity, which in turn damaged its chances of reaching its 18-week target.

But yesterday the trust insisted that after Monitor became aware of the situation in March, it had agreed with CHUFT a series of new targets and a recovery strategy.

The trust said it has already made arrangements for a further 50 beds to be available this winter at Colchester General Hospital and has recruited additional staff to match them.

It said that it was now hitting its 18-week surgery and four-hour A&E targets and improving in all the areas Monitor had highlighted.

CHUFT claimed that before finding it in breach of its authorisation, which happened at a Monitor board meeting in September, the regulator had failed to consider a series of submissions showing improvements had taken and were taking place.

However, Monitor documents produced following the board meeting showed it had in fact recognised some improvements.

But they continued: “Notwithstanding progress made, Monitor's board concluded that the trust was in significant breach of terms of its authorisation due, in summary, to its failure to comply with healthcare standards, to exercise its functions effectively, efficiently and economically, to co operate with other NHS bodies or to deal with Monitor in an open and co-operative manner, which failures both separately and collectively give rise to serious and extensive concerns as to overall governance at the trust.”

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