Hospital 'treating patients too quickly'

A SECOND Suffolk hospital has been penalised for treating patients too quickly.The highly successful specialist Eye Treatment Centre at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds has had £200,000 slashed from its funding - and bosses have been told they will have to make people wait longer for operations in the future.

A SECOND Suffolk hospital has been penalised for treating patients too quickly.

The highly successful specialist Eye Treatment Centre at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds has had £200,000 slashed from its funding - and bosses have been told they will have to make people wait longer for operations in the future.

Suffolk West Primary Care Trust (PCT) bosses defended the decision to take the cash from the centre's budget as the best way of using taxpayers' money.

It comes after Ipswich Hospital had £2.5million of funding cut because it had treated patients too fast. Doctors had treated patients inside four months, which was in breach of an agreement with the Suffolk East PCTs - even though they had spare capacity.


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A hospital spokesman had said it was a “glitch” which would not be repeated and patients would have to wait at least four months for treatment.

West Suffolk Hospital chief executive Chris Bown, who is already tackling multi-million pound debts, said: “New ways of referring patients who need surgery to remove cataracts at the Eye Treatment Centre at the West Suffolk have significantly reduced waiting times over the last two years.

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“Over that period opticians have been able to send patients directly to the West Suffolk Hospital's centre instead of first asking them to see family doctors who, in the past, would have referred patients straight to the hospital, which has speeded up performance.

“We have been paid for all the activity we delivered last year. However, we are in negotiations with Suffolk West PCT, which has asked the centre to lengthen waiting times to the maximum - three months for removing cataracts from patients' first eye and the second within six months.

“The PCT has reduced trust income by £200,000 from this year's contract to lengthen the time patients wait. The trust will not have to pay anything extra because it is within this year's budget.”

David Ruffley, Conservative MP for Bury St Edmunds, criticised the decision to cut budgets in reward for such success.

He said: “The hospital is effectively being penalised for treating patients too quickly.

“This has happened because the health funding for Suffolk is below the national average and it must be frustrating for the hospital staff who are being punished for being too efficient. It is an appalling 'Alice in Wonderland' situation.”

The centre's five ophthalmic consultants and their team of staff see 26,000 outpatients a year. The centre has reduced patient waiting times to as little as three months for both eye operations to be completed and some have been seen for their first eye operation within six weeks.

A spokesman for the PCT said: “Over the last two years the Eye Treatment Centre at the West Suffolk Hospital has made excellent progress in reducing some very long waiting times, but the waiting has now been reduced to a level we cannot afford unless we take funding away from other services.

“We believe that a waiting time of only three months for the removal of a cataract is very reasonable and affordable so we have asked the hospital to keep within this limit.

“These are the sorts of things we have to do to ensure the local health budget is used to best effect for as many people as possible across all services we provide.

“People should remember that it is not so long ago that patients waited over 18 months for routine operations. There is now a maximum waiting time of six months across the board”.

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