New pricing system for hospitals

HOSPITALS in Suffolk could soon have to adhere to a new national pricing system for carrying out its operations, it emerged today.The price list for NHS treatments has been published by the Government in a bid to improve efficiency and tackle large variations in the amount spent by different hospitals on the same operation.

HOSPITALS in Suffolk could soon have to adhere to a new national pricing system for carrying out its operations, it emerged today.

The price list for NHS treatments has been published by the Government in a bid to improve efficiency and tackle large variations in the amount spent by different hospitals on the same operation.

Under the new national tariff Ipswich Hospital will receive a set cost from Ipswich Primary Care Trust (PCT) on procedures such as cataract, hip and heart bypass surgery.

Currently the PCT's work with hospitals to forecast the amount of money they are likely to need in one year, based on information from other years.


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But when anything unexpected crops up, such as the huge surge in emergency admissions that Ipswich Hospital has experienced this year, hospitals can be left out of pocket.

The new system is "a Payment by Results system", which according to Health Minister John Hutton is a way of reforming the way finances flow around the NHS system.

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Independent sectors providing private care for NHS patients will also have to accept the new tariff as it was revealed that around £100million was spent by the NHS last year on buying acute treatment privately.

Those NHS hospitals which manage to carry out the operation at below tariff cost will be allowed to keep the excess money to reinvest in improving equipment and services.

For some hospitals it is thought the tariff could cause a problem as if operations cost any more than the money given the hospital will be left footing the bill.

However at Ipswich Hospital, spokeswoman Jan Rowsell said that for many years the hospital had proved that it was excellent value for money.

She said: "Ipswich Hospital is very efficient anyway.

"There is an efficiency rating and year after year we are a hospital that proves excellent value for money.

"For us this could well be of immense benefit."

But she pointed out that the cost of an operation did not just cover the operation and had to cover the running costs of the hospital as well and also after care.

She said: "You never know until the last dressing how much the care will truly cost.

"If someone is over 65 and has free prescriptions do you count that in, or follow up care from a district nurse?"

British Medical Association chairman James Johnson said: "In practice the tariff system could cause the NHS problems.

"At the moment there is no system sophisticated enough to take account of all the factors that can affect hospital's costs.

"As a result some tariffs will be far lower than the real costs of providing care putting undue pressure on hospital to make cuts.

N Let us know your views on the pricing policy. Write in to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk or visit the forum at www.eveningstar.co.uk

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