Hospital penalised for fast treatment

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UNISON Eastern regional head of health Geoff Reason yesterday condemned Labour over £2.5m in penalties imposed on Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust for treating patients too quickly.

Reason told News Line: ‘It gets from bad to worse. What we are facing is hospitals who’ve done too much work to meet government targets.

‘Now the money isn’t there to pay for the treatment because the government money has gone away. It’s bizarre.

‘It’s appalling we should be having this conversation under a Labour government.

‘Staff are fed up. They have been led up the hill and down the other side.

‘We face compulsory redundancies in our area and there may well be industrial action.

‘There is a lot of anger about.’

The penalties arose over the commissioning contract between the hospital and East Suffolk Primary Care Trusts.

Ipswich Hospital had been treating some patients within a week.

It was discovered by accountants examining the hospital’s £16.7m deficit that the PCTs had not paid £2.5m for treatment carried out because the contract stipulated that patients should not be treated in less than 122 days.

An Ipswich Hospital joint unions spokesman said: ‘The PCTs wanted the work done – we did it and now they should pay for it.’

Dr Paul Miller, chairman of the BMA’s Consultants Committee, said: ‘This story tells us a lot. It shows that government policy often puts targets above patients.

‘It makes us question whether patient choice is a reality – would anyone really choose to wait 122 days for an operation?

‘It shows that the NHS has the capacity to carry out treatment, but lacks the funding, and that spending millions more on independent sector contracts would be the wrong option.’

• The Royal College of Pathologists condemned a government move yesterday to outsource pathology services.

The Department of Health announced £1m funding for twelve pilot schemes which will look at using private sector testing and utilising NHS labs more efficiently, in response to a review of pathology services in England by Lord Carter of Coles.

Professor Peter Furness, vice-president of the Royal College of Pathologists welcomed the report’s emphasis on looking at more efficient ways of using NHS services and its caution about increasing the use of the private sector.

Furness said: ‘The government’s response is far more bullish, and raises the prospect of exactly the sort of cherry-picking of the “easiest bits”, such as blood tests, that could destabilise and fragment the service in the way that Lord Carter’s report warns about.’