Hospital waiting list cash shock

HOSPITAL bosses in Ipswich have been penalised by the health system - for NOT making patients wait for their operations.As hospitals across the country battle to slash waiting lists it has emerged that Ipswich Hospital has lost out on millions of pounds because they treated patients too quickly.

HOSPITAL bosses in Ipswich have been penalised by the health system - for NOT making patients wait for their operations.

As hospitals across the country battle to slash waiting lists it has emerged that Ipswich Hospital has lost out on millions of pounds because they treated patients too quickly.

Department of Health rules state that no patients should wait for more than six months for an operation.

But in east Suffolk a lesser-known rule also states that all patients should wait for at least 122 days.

If a hospital performs the operation before the 122 days are up, Primary Care Trusts (who pay them to provide operations) are within their rights not to stump up the cash.

A report by external auditors in to Ipswich Hospital's £16.7m debt crisis found that the trust lost £2.4m because they performed operations which the PCT would not pay them for.

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It states: “The trust had spare capacity and therefore, to ensure its resources were utilised, treated a number of patients in advance of the 122 day rule.”

The report shows that in 04/05 this cost the hospital £240,000 and in 05/06 this rose to £2.4m.

The guideline was introduced by the Suffolk East PCTs and is believed to be used by some other PCTs in the country, but it is not a government policy.

Jan Rowsell, spokeswoman for Ipswich Hospital, said: “Anyone who is deemed to be clinically urgent would be seen earlier, this rule is there for people who are waiting for planned surgery.”

She added that the hospital had effectively breached its agreement with the Suffolk East PCT by treating people more quickly.

She said: “Although you can understand the reasons why we may have done it, the background is that we went against our commissioning agreement.”

Carole Taylor-Brown, chief executive of the Suffolk East PCTs, said: “The whole principle of it is to make sure that patients are seen in turn as they go through the system and to level out waiting times.

“It's also about making best use of the money that we have available throughout the year.

“It would be great if we were fully resourced to do everything but we are given a certain amount for the year and it's about making sure that we're using it efficiently.

“This is something that we agreed with the hospital, not just something that was imposed on them, and the most important thing is that we have managed to bring waiting times down.

“It was not that long ago that people would have to wait up to 18 months for an operation. Now, nobody is waiting more than six months.”

She added that the 122 days had now been lowered to 98 days.

n. see page 15 for an update on the Felixstowe General.

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