Ipswich: Hospital fined nearly �1.2million for missing targets

MISSED targets have cost Ipswich Hospital nearly �1.2million in fines already this year, it can today be revealed.

The cash-strapped trust has amassed the penalties across a range of specialities after breaching elements of its contract with NHS Suffolk.

New figures reveal the trust has been penalised for missing the 18-week wait target from referral to treatment in general surgery – a fine totalling �384,209 from April to August.

In that time another �355,000 was levied for missing the outpatient to follow up ratio, �118,000 was paid out for delays in sending discharge summaries to GPs and missed cancer waiting times saw the trust slapped with a �141,000 bill.

Ambulance handover times, missed stroke and A&E targets and consultant to consultant referrals were also to blame for the financial penalties imposed.

Bixley councillor Alan Murray, who sits on the health scrutiny committee, said: “It is regrettable that the fines are levied in the first place.

“It is regrettable that they seem to be levied for the exactly the same things as last year – the 18-week waiting time for general surgery for example.”

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He told The Star action has been taken at the hospital, particularly to address the problems in the general surgery department, which saw the trust meet the 18-week wait target of 90 per cent in August – the first time it has achieved that this year.

“The hospital really is between a rock and a hard place,” he added.

“I do think it is important that patients wait a relatively short period of time if they need an intervention. “But I do feel that at certain times of the year when, because of bed blocking for example, there are sometimes problems in fulfilling strict 18-week waiting times.

“There are some PCTs sticking too strictly to these targets and fining when they are breached.”

The hospital is already facing a deficit this year of �2.3million on top of the trust’s historic debt of �3.6m and the PFI debt of �25.9m – money used in part to build the Garratt Anderson centre at the Heath Road site.

It comes as the hospital board implements a series of measures in a bid to apply to the Department of Health to become a Foundation Trust – the gold standard for health trusts giving them financial independence – in December 2013.

Ipswich MP Ben Gummer said he believes we will see better financial results than last year.

“We all know that last year was a tough one for the hospital as it struggled to get it’s finances in order,” he said.

“The level of fines clearly reflects that it still has work to do in providing the kind of uniform standard of service that Ipswich and Suffolk patients demand.

“I know that the new management and everyone at the hospital is working incredibly hard to meet that aspiration.”

A hospital spokeswoman said: “Our hospital is facing its share of the huge financial challenge affecting the NHS nationally and we accept that it is now a national directive for commissioners to fine hospitals in specific performance areas.

“The performance requirements are that hospitals perform better than ever before and against the vast majority of performance indicators we are performing but we know that not all our areas are currently meeting every local contract standard.

“We know we need to deliver to these standards in order to make sure we don’t incur any further fines. Ultimately financial penalties can be imposed, but we have ongoing discussions with NHS Suffolk whenever we have challenges in delivery.”

n Should the hospital face these fines? Tell us your health stories. Write to health reporter Lizzie Parry at Ipswich Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail lizzie.parry@archant.co.uk

HEALTH bosses at NHS Suffolk said the fines are levied against an agreed contract signed by the hospital and the primary care trust (PCT).

Tracy Dowling, NHS Suffolk’s deputy chief executive, said: “NHS Suffolk, in partnership with GP commissioners, agreed a contract for 2012/13 with Ipswich Hospital which includes nationally set and locally agreed standards.

“The focus of this contract is to ensure that Ipswich Hospital delivers a quality service for people in Ipswich and east Suffolk.

“Where these standards are not met and performance quickly remedied, NHS Suffolk applies the terms of the pre-agreed contract.

“NHS Suffolk would much prefer that Ipswich Hospital delivers the standards of performance for patients, as defined in the contract.

“NHS Suffolk has agreed a significant investment for the transformation of services to assist Ipswich Hospital in making the necessary changes to be more efficient and effective in future.”