Hospital pledges to regain star rating

"WE WILL get better and we WILL become a three star trust."That was the pledge from Ipswich Hospital chiefs today after the trust was awarded a one star status in the NHS performance ratings.

By Jessica Nicholls


health reporter

IPSWICH Hospital has today been down-graded from two to one star status in the NHS performance ratings.

But hospital chiefs immediately pledged: "We will get better and we will become a three star trust."

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The trust lost its two star status awarded last year after significantly under achieving in one area and coming below average in others.

While ambulance chiefs are celebrating their honour of being awarded the maximum three stars, the powers that be at Heath Road hospital are licking their wounds.

However, they are determined to eventually become a three star hospital and said although they were disappointed with this years findings, things are already looking up.

The only hospital to be awarded three stars in the region was Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge. The Norfolk and Norwich hospital received a two star award along with the West Suffolk Hospital, which has lost its three star status.

Health secretary, Alan Milburn, said three star trusts will be given extra resources of up to £1 million to improve services to patients and will also be invited to apply for NHS Foundation Trust status.

He added: "There is a simple principal that underpins these performance ratings. The Public has a right to know how their local health service is performing. The NHS does not belong to me. It belongs to the people who use it and who pay for it."

It only takes one area of significant under achievement to give the trust a one star status. For Ipswich it was their inability to stick to a two week cancer wait for patients that let them down.

If there is a strong suspicion that a patient has cancer, guidelines state that they should see a consultant within two weeks, but at Ipswich there were a small number of cases where that target was not met.

But today, Chris Dooley, acting chief executive of the trust, said the hospital was already on track to achieve a two week waiting time for all cancers including the small number of specialist areas where they were struggling.

He said: "There is sense of real disappointment in not retaining our two star status.

"We want to be a three-star trust and hope that we will make great progress to achieve this in the next 24 months.

The hospital achieved six out of the nine targets which the star ratings are based on.

Other areas that let them down were sticking to 18 month inpatient waiting times, and emergency re-admissions following hospital treatment.

However they were significantly above average in their treatment of breast cancer and were above average in staff opinion surveys and risks of clinical negligence.

Mr Dooley added that the trust was working extremely hard to bring faster treatment and shorter waiting times for patients.

He said: "One of our patients did wait more than 18 months for treatment but this was through patient choice.

"We met the target for having no patients waiting more than 15 months for treatment and all new patients waiting for an outpatients appointment were seen within 26 weeks.

"The star ratings reflect what has happened in the past 12 months and set the agenda for action in the coming months.

"It may be a challenging agenda but it is one we welcome."

The NHS performance ratings are correlated by the Department of Health and covers criteria such as inpatient and outpatient waits, twelve hour trolley waits, cancelled operations, hospital cleanliness and emergency re-admissions following previous hospital treatment.

Such ratings were set up to ensure accountability to the public and parliament and to give NHS clinicians the chance to measure their ratings against their peers in a bid to identify areas for improvement as well as sharing best practice.

Across the country star ratings are mainly on the rise. It is only the second time that the system has been used, and this year there are more three star ratings than zero ratings.

Of the 304 trusts that have been rated, 68 received three stars, 172 received two stars, 54 received one star and 10 received no stars.

Ipswich hospital is one of 36 trusts to receive a lower rating compared to last year.