Hospital won't be paid for ops

SENIOR health officials have today ruled that Ipswich Hospital will definitely not be paid for more than £2million of operations it was deemed to have carried out “too quickly”.

SENIOR health officials have today ruled that Ipswich Hospital will definitely not be paid for more than £2million of operations it was deemed to have carried out “too quickly”.

The news comes as a slap in the face to the debt-ridden hospital which has had to look at axing up to 350 posts to get back in to the black.

As exclusively revealed in The Evening Star in July, the Suffolk Primary Care Trust (PCT) refused to pay the hospital for £2.4m of operations because they had been carried out before a minimum 122 day waiting time imposed by the PCT.

After talks between the hospital and the PCT failed to resolve the problem, the region's Strategic Health Authority was asked to intervene in the dispute and an arbitration panel has now ruled that the PCT were right to refuse to pay out.

The decision has appalled health campaigners who believe the hospital is being punished for being efficient.

Peter Mellor, a prominent health campaigner and member of the Save Felixstowe Hospitals group, said: “It's a complete disgrace and, with the possible exception of the PCT board members, everyone else in Suffolk would agree with me.

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“It goes wholly against the spirit of the NHS.”

Andrew Reed, chief executive of Ipswich Hospital, said: “It is extremely disappointing, there's no doubt about that.

“It would certainly have been a big benefit to the hospital to have been paid for the work that we did.”

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.”

The East of England Strategic Health Authority refused to comment and would not reveal who made the final decision.

However, it is believed that two SHA directors, including Steve Clarke, the director of finance and performance, would have had responsibility for it.

The 122-day rule has since been lowered to 98 days by the PCT.

Hospital chief executive Andrew Reed said the 122-day rule had been written in to the hospital's contract with the PCT but added: “We were under the impression that we had an agreement where we would get paid for any work we did outside of that contract.

“The lesson we've learnt is that if it's not written down, we don't do it.

“The money would certainly have improved our position, and would have meant that we would not have developed any more debt this year.”

However, Mr Reed stressed that if the hospital had been paid the money it would mean the PCT, which also has huge debts, would be £2.4m out of pocket.

He said: “We need to remember that if we had got the money then the PCT would have been worse off and there would still be a need for the local NHS to address the problem.”

He said the hospital had never banked on getting the money so the decision does not affect their financial recovery plan for the year.

Ipswich Hospital and the Suffolk PCT are both battling to shift huge debts.

The Suffolk PCT's total debt currently stands at around £35.4m, while the hospital's is around £24.1m.

Both trusts have taken drastic measures to try to cut their debts - Ipswich Hospital is in the process of axing around 350 jobs, and the PCT has closed community hospitals like the Bartlet and day hospitals for older people with mental health problems.

The Department of Health requires both trusts to have balanced their books by the end of the next financial year, and health bosses have refused to rule out further changes.

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