Health chiefs defend weak ratings

SUFFOLK'S cash-strapped health bodies are still struggling to manage their resources, according to a report out today.

SUFFOLK'S cash-strapped health bodies are still struggling to manage their resources, according to a report out today.

The Healthcare Commission today publishes its annual survey of primary care, mental health and hospital trusts.

All NHS trusts receive a rating made up of two parts - a score for quality of services and another for use of resources - and both are scored as excellent, good, fair or weak.

They are marked according to performance in areas such as the care and treatment of patients, cost effectiveness, medicine management, diagnostic services, admissions management and meeting national targets.

Despite a raft of money-saving measures Suffolk Primary Care Trust (PCT) and Ipswich Hospital have both been rated weak for the way they manage their resources and fair for their quality of service.

Andrew Reed, chief executive of Ipswich Hospital, said: “Given that it was a very difficult 12 months in that we have put in place an extremely aggressive recovery plan I think the ratings are a fair reflection of the year.

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“Unfortunately if you have an accumulated deficit you are automatically rated as weak - this is despite us actually improving the financial standing in 06/07 - so I would say it's not entirely accurate.

“In terms of quality of service we did fall down early on in the year with a number of patient breaches but these have been addressed. I think, given the strong focus on financial performance, to maintain the same rating as last year is a reasonable reflection of what has happened.”

Carole Taylor-Brown, chief executive of Suffolk PCT, said the trust was also marked weak because of its historic debt.

She said: “We recognise that there are areas for improvement in our services and we are already focused on making the right changes to commission and provide excellent services to patients

“We have turned around the financial position to reduce the accumulated historic debt from £35.5m at the start of the year to £30.9m. We are currently on target to reduce the debt by a further £18.9m during this financial year.”

Suffolk Mental Health Partnership was rated as good for its quality of service and fair for its use of resources - an improvement of last year's score of “fair” across the board.

Chief executive Mark Halladay said: “We've come a long way in the last two years, when we received a 'zero' score under the old star ratings scheme. Since then, we've reorganised our services while also enhancing the support we have given to the people who use those services.”

Meanwhile the East of England Ambulance Service, which formed in July last year, received a score of good for quality of service and fair for use of resources.

N Do you think the ratings are a good indictor of the state of Suffolk's health services? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail

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