Joy for Suffolk's health service

HEALTH staff across the region today heard their hard work and dedication had rocketed their operations up the Government league tables.The Evening Star can reveal that Ipswich Hospital has gained two-star status in the annual Department of Health awards - and only missed the top three-star rating by a whisker.

HEALTH staff across the region today heard their hard work and dedication had rocketed their operations up the Government league tables.

The Evening Star can reveal that Ipswich Hospital has gained two-star status in the annual Department of Health awards - and only missed the top three-star rating by a whisker.

Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire are believed to have a dozen three-star organisations - including the East Anglian Ambulance Trust, Central Suffolk Primary Care Trust, and Papworth which treats many heart patients from our area. The Commission for Health Improvement has granted the region the highest number of top-grade trusts in Britain.

Ipswich and Suffolk Coastal primary care trusts are also understood to have achieved two stars, in their first opportunity to be graded.


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Health bosses remain unable to comment publicly because of an embargo on the news until tomorrow.

However, hospital chief executive Paul Forden is understood to be over the moon at the achievement, which will be a huge morale booster for staff.

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He had previously voiced fears that the number of cancelled operations and the hospital's failure to meet a two-week wait for cancer patients threatened to keep the hospital's rating at just one star. He told the Star earlier this month that he was not sure if the trust would considered to be significantly under achieving in those areas or marginally failing.

That fear came despite the hospital operating at a level equal to a three-star rating since November.

But management were delighted to hear the news yesterday and are now busy forging ahead into the future with a host of new plans. A team of directors including several new faces, headed by Mr Forden who joined the trust in August along with chairman Christine Smart, has major changes under way including a £25million planned treatment and critical care centre - for which funding partners are being sought next month.

When the trust hit only six out of nine DOH standards and dropped from two stars to one star last year, morale among the hospital's 3,000 staff plunged to a low ebb.

Chairman at the time Peter Bye, today recalled how difficult that time had been for staff, and said: "I am absolutely delighted that the hospital has its extra star back. It was such a blow when it lost the star last year, and I never felt it deserved that. It was such an excellent place with superb staff, and the public response to the hospital had been very positive."

Mr Forden has pledged to get the hospital up to three stars in 24 months - and he is still confident of that.

The figures the new two-star rating was issued upon, hark back to last year rather than what is happening now. They also apply to only nine areas of the hospital's work, and Mr Forden said at Friday's hospital board meeting: "How can you measure a hospital on just nine measures, when you consider what a lot of other things we do which are of value to staff and patients? Since November we have been running on a three-star level."

Staff are to be officially informed of the rating tomorrow .

Weblinks: www.ipswichhospital.org.uk

www.doh.gov.uk/performanceratings/2002/national

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What do you think of the hospital's performance?

Write to Your Letters, The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail: EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk.

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