Hospital forced to cut back on savings

PRESSURE to meet strict government targets is today forcing Ipswich Hospital to dramatically cut back on paying off its debts.The hospital, burdened by £17million of debt, wanted to save and pay off £10m this year but today revealed it has to halve its savings target.

PRESSURE to meet strict government targets is today forcing Ipswich Hospital to dramatically cut back on paying off its debts.

The hospital, burdened by £17million of debt, wanted to save and pay off £10m this year but today revealed it has to halve its savings target.

Andrew Reed, the hospital's chief executive, said it is has made the decision to try to claw back £5m instead of £10m so it can invest in services, including upping the number of operations it carries out.

It includes an unplanned investment of £2.5m in infection control and shortening waiting times.

Mr Reed said: “We are past the half way point in this financial year and have thought about what we need to achieve in the next six to 18 months.

“Particularly we need to up our game in terms of shortening waiting times as we've got the challenging 18 week from GP referral to treatment target to reach.

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“We want to invest some of the money we were going to have as surplus, to pay off debt, into making our services more productive.”

The hospital plans to redesign the way operating lists are dealt with, making sure people are assessed prior to the operation day so fewer operations are cancelled and theatre slots are not wasted.

It is also recruiting two new orthopaedic surgeons as the orthopaedic workload is rising.

The Evening Star revealed in September that the bid to slash £10m of debt was already £1.7m behind target because it had not done as many operations as it needed to get maximum funding. Tackling superbugs had also put a strain on finances, and the introduction of a patient administration computer system had slowed down operations as it struggled to cope with the demand of the busy hospital.

Hospital chiefs said at the time it was hopeful it could make up the shortfall through the rest of the financial year.

Today, Mr Reed said: “We now want to get away from aggressive cost cutting and move into a more planned approach of eliminating waste and reducing delays in theatre times.

“By investing upfront now we should generate savings over time.”

Mr Reed said it remains determined to make the hospital debt free by 2009.

The hospital said it hopes the changes will encourage the community to back its 2008 bid to become a Foundation Trust, an NHS trust where decision making is taken away from the government and handed to the community.

Julian Herbert, Suffolk Primary Care Trust's director of finance and performance, said: “Providing good patient care is an important issue for the whole of the NHS.

“With that in mind, we welcome Ipswich Hospital's move to invest in shortening waiting times, to ensure the majority of people wait no longer than 18 weeks from GP referral to treatment, and bringing the number of healthcare acquired infections cases down.

“Both the hospital and the PCT are clear that these issues are a priority in improving services for patients in the future.”

n Should the hospital concentrate on wiping debt or investing in services? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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