Surgeon's fears over hospital cutbacks

A SENIOR consultant last night said the financial crisis gripping Ipswich Hospital had shattered morale and left top doctors fearing for their future.Jeffrey Hallett, consultant orthopaedic surgeon, spoke out about the devastating impact of the continued cost-cutting regime as health bosses seek to claw back a £16.

A SENIOR consultant last night said the financial crisis gripping Ipswich Hospital had shattered morale and left top doctors fearing for their future.

Jeffrey Hallett, consultant orthopaedic surgeon, spoke out about the devastating impact of the continued cost-cutting regime as health bosses seek to claw back a £16.7million hole in their budget.

Scores of jobs are under threat as savings continue to be explored, with the hospital still reeling from the blow of losing £2.5million in funding for treating patients too quickly.

East Suffolk Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) had introduced a minimum wait of 122 days before patients could see a consultant.


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But some were waiting just a week at Ipswich Hospital, meaning more people were treated than the PCTs had agreed to fund. This resulted in the hospital being forced to pay for the £2.5million worth of extra care provided, a situation Dr Hallett described as “frustrating nonsense”.

He said: “The people who suffer are the staff, who could be made redundant. The staff are very fed up because they are unable to provide a service in our area. We want to treat our patients locally and don't want to have to send them elsewhere.

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“We are faced with a number of patients coming in who need to be treated within a certain time. If they are not, the hospital is penalised for that too.”

Mr Hallett said many people had found the scale of the financial problems hard to believe, with nearly all staff fearing for their jobs.

He said “Every last expense is being looked at. Nobody is allowed to order stationery unless it is authorised by fairly senior management. If you've got to that stage, it's very worrying.

“Senior doctors almost certainly will be among those made redundant. People retiring will not be replaced and that means an extra burden on already busy people.

“It's very bad for morale. People are worried about if they have got a future in health care. Once you lose good people, it's very difficult to get them back.”

Douglas Seaton, 60, a consultant physician who worked with the restraints of the minimum waiting times before retiring from Ipswich Hospital in June, has also spoken of his concerns in an interview with a national newspaper.

He said: “In the last year, we have seen disastrous strains. The senior managers are following political instructions. The Government is holding the reins and it is not working.”

Jan Rowsell, spokeswoman for Ipswich Hospital, admitted staff had been working in “difficult circumstances”.

She said: “We have been very open about the significant challenges we face, particularly getting back on track financially. One of those challenges is making sure we only carry out the work we are commissioned to supply.

“Change is never easy but all of the staff are doing a magnificent job in what are clearly difficult circumstances.

“They continue to do their job with extreme professionalism and put the NHS and Ipswich Hospital first. We've had more than 1,000 ideas generated from staff about we can change and ensure the high standards of care are maintained.”

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