Hospital chief: Foundation status vital

IPSWICH Hospital could be swallowed by a private company and run from outside the town if it fails to gain foundation trust status, The Evening Star can reveal today.

IPSWICH Hospital could be swallowed by a private company and run from outside the town if it fails to gain foundation trust status, The Evening Star can reveal today.

The worst-case scenario for the hospital could result in another monopolising NHS body or even a for-profit business taking over the management of the Heath Road site.

The hospital's chief executive, Andrew Reed, said the dire consequences of not being approved as a foundation trust by next year's deadline showed why work towards the special status, given only to NHS bodies deemed to be performing well, was vital.

“We would lose control of our own destiny,” he said.

“There isn't much case law but a hospital has already been taken over by another, bigger trust.

“That is the biggest risk, that either the Strategic Health Authority or Monitor (which regulates foundation trusts) say we're not ready and we miss the cut off point and they will get someone else to acquire Ipswich Hospital and run it from a different base.

Most Read

“Therefore it is very important we become a foundation trust.”

Hospitals across the country have been warned that unless they meet the Department of Health deadline of becoming a foundation trust by the end of 2010 then other organisations could take them over.

But gaining the status involves consistently hitting performance and financial targets and is proving challenging for many hospitals.

Last week the East of England Strategic Health Authority (SHA) invited NHS and independent sector providers - from either the UK or abroad - to bid to run Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire as a franchise after declaring the debt-ridden hospital would never achieve foundation trust status.

Marilyn Martin, Royal College of Nursing officer for Suffolk, said: “If Ipswich Hospital doesn't achieve foundation trust status, regardless of what you thought about foundation trusts before, then services could be fragmented and could actually go outside the NHS, because if another organisation is brought in it could be from the independent sector.

“Also, if it is another NHS foundation trust that takes over the hospital it could create a huge organisation which then becomes difficult to manage.

“It is a time of uncertainty. The bid to become a foundation trust places dreadful pressure on the hospital's team and senior manager and impacts on everyone.”

Would you be happy for another NHS body or private company to run Ipswich Hospital? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

Foundation Trusts

Foundation trusts are NHS bodies which provide health services in England, such as hospitals and mental health trusts.

They are not directed by government so have greater freedom to decide their own strategy and the way services are run.

They can retain their finical surpluses and borrow to invest in new and improved services for patients and service users, unlike standard NHS trusts.

They are accountable to their local communities through their members and governors, to their commissioners through contracts, to parliament and to Monitor as the foundation trust regulator.

Anyone who lives in the area can become a member of a foundation trust and will have a say in the running of the body.

Colchester Hospital, the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital and Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge are all foundation trusts already.

Ipswich Hospital, West Suffolk Hospital and Suffolk Mental Health Partnership all want to become foundation trusts, but none have achieved the goal so far.

The challenges:

IPSWICH Hospital is facing a series of challenges if it is to take control of its own destiny and become a foundation trust.

In order to meet strict criteria before it can gain the special status the hospital must hit key targets, where it is currently failing, and improve its financial performance.

The targets include treating patients within 18-weeks, which has caused numerous problems at the hospital, leading to the outsourcing of operations at the hospital and the use of foreign medics brought in to treat extra cases.

And now the hospital is struggling to treat enough patients within four hours of arriving at Accident & Emergency, leaving it with another hurdle to climb before it will be allowed to progress to foundation trust status.

Andrew Reed, chief executive, said: “The first and most basic challenge is we need to make sure we are consistently hitting national targets.

“Performance on all of them for all hospitals can bobble up and down and our problems with 18 weeks have been well-publicised.

“Accident & Emergency performance has dipped too. We have lost some doctors and found it difficult to recruit.”

In June only 96.65 per cent of emergency patients were treated quickly enough, below the national target of 98pc for the second month in a row.

But the hospital said it had new recruitment processes in place in order to attract more emergency doctors despite a national shortage.

Mr Reed added: “I think there is no doubt that the challenge to become a foundation trust has become tougher as we've gone on.

“Not only are the targets tougher but we have got impeding public sector funding problems in the NHS and that is going to be a huge challenge for anybody.

“So the barriers to becoming a foundation trust are getting higher.”

Carole Taylor-Brown, chief executive of NHS Suffolk, said: “From NHS Suffolk's point of view, the hospital has a number of challenges which are unique and others that are shared with hospitals across the country.

“Clearly the hospital must show a consistent level of performance against all the national core standards, such as treating people within 18 weeks from referral to treatment and that people visiting the accident and emergency department are seen, treated and discharged within four hours. Its financial position is also a challenge.

“These essential standards need to be addressed before Monitor will consider approving its foundation trust bid. While we can encourage and support the hospital, it is important to note that these vital standards must be achieved by the hospital itself.”

Have a Heart appeal

AS Ipswich Hospital fights to become a foundation trust, The Evening Star is battling to help the hospital provide the best level of heart care possible with the 'Have a Heart' appeal.

The Evening Star's 'Have a Heart' appeal is raising money to help fund a specialist heart attack centre at Ipswich Hospital

Three high-tech primary angioplasty (PPCI) centres have been set up at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, Papworth in Cambridge and Basildon in Essex, but not in Suffolk

From September 1 serious heart attack patients in Suffolk will be sent to these centres, facing much longer journeys for care than people living nearby, and therefore having less chance of survival

Health bosses say Ipswich Hospital does not currently have the infrastructure or staff to provide the service

The Evening Star has been campaigning for a primary angioplasty centre to be set up in Ipswich so residents have the best level of care possible and don't face long journeys for treatment

After successfully changing healthcare policy with our campaign we have now launched the 'Have a Heart' appeal which is raising money to help set up a catheter laboratory at Heath Road

The Star is asking for just one pound from every person who may need care at Ipswich Hospital's cardiac department in the future - which would collect around �350,000

The lab will originally be used to treat non-urgent heart operations but could eventually be expanded into a primary angioplasty centre

To support the campaign send cheques made payable to Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust to Have a Heart, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN, or donate money in person at the Star's Ipswich offices.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter