Hospital fine an outrage

WHAT on earth is happening at Ipswich Hospital? Every twist of the funding saga seems more bizarre - the situation at Heath Road now really is so strange you could not make it up.

WHAT on earth is happening in our Suffolk health services? Every twist of the funding saga seems more bizarre - the situation at Heath Road now really is so strange you could not make it up.

We now have the absurd situation where the hospital is being penalised by the Suffolk Primary Care Trust and the East of England Strategic Health Authority because it is treating patients too quickly.

What kind of world are we now living in?

It's a world where the bureaucrats at the PCT decide we have to live with an uncomfortable condition for at least 122 days before it can be treated.

It's a world where if the hospital is able to treat patients before that 122-day limit - and does so - it will face a financial penalty.

And who sets and enforces these rules? A bunch of non-elected faceless bureaucrats who have no accountability to the people they serve.

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If we don't like what they're doing, if we don't like the way they're doing their job, tough! They don't have to worry what we - the patients, the potential patients, and the families of patients - think. We don't have any say in what they do or how they do it.

That is the reality of the NHS in 2007. The SHA wouldn't even tell us who made the decision to fine Ipswich Hospital for being too efficient.

Caroline Tuohy, Suffolk PCT's director of commissioning and development, said: “We are glad a conclusion has been reached and that we can now put this matter behind us and move forward.”

That's a bit like an armed robber saying to his victim: “I'm glad we reached an agreement that saw you giving me your wallet!”

Ipswich Hospital is a fine facility. We are lucky to have such an efficient hospital staffed by such dedicated individuals to look after us in east Suffolk.

Yet because of budget pressures it is going to lose 350 of those dedicated staff.

It doesn't need its hands further tied by unaccountable bureaucrats determined to jump on any deviation from the norm to starve it of funds.

And why did Ipswich Hospital start conducting these operations in the first place. Surely there was some nod of agreement from someone, somewhere? Which returns us to accountability - or the lack of it.

WHEN Ipswich were drawn away to Watford in the fifth round of the FA Cup, many fans hearts will have sunk.

This was not the glamour tie we had dreamed of. They'll be no visit to Portman Road by Manchester United, Chelsea, or Arsenal - at least not in this round.

But it does mean there is a realistic prospect of the Super Blues continuing their cup quest - and that would see them in the quarter final, just two matches from the first match at the new Wembley stadium.

Back in 2004 Millwall got a succession of non-glamour ties and found themselves, much to everyone's surprise, in the FA Cup final. They were soundly beaten by Manchester United, but their fans will never forget their big day out.

Could it just be that this year will see history repeat itself for Ipswich? After playing in the last club match at the old Wembley it would be only fitting if the Tractor Boys returned for the first match at the new stadium.