NHS improving - but still some concerns

PATIENT care at the region's hospitals is improving, a report out today reveals.

PATIENT care at the region's hospitals is improving, a report out today reveals.

Health inspectors are satisfied that the NHS Trust's covering Suffolk deliver an overall package of services which meets and often exceeds national guidelines.

However, the Health Care Commission's third annual “health check” survey shows serious concerns remain in a number of key areas.

The report, which is released to judge performance in all aspects of NHS healthcare, rates the Ambulance service in the region as one of the worst in the country. But East of England Ambulance chiefs have said the “weak” rating of its services was due to a data inputting error and did not reflect its standard of work.

The biggest areas of sub-standard service highlighted in the report are:

Teenage conception rates.

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Accident and Emergency waiting times at West Suffolk Hospital.

Rearranging cancelled operations within 28 days.

Providing patients with a range of options for their required healthcare.

Outpatients waiting longer than the national standard.

Despite this all the hospitals in the area improved their overall performance in the annual report, with all but Ipswich receiving the top rating for their quality of services.

Fiona Goodall, an east of England area manager for the Health Care Commission, said: “The overall message is of improvement and we would want to celebrate that.

“This health check helps give a picture which I think is a positive one for the East of England trusts, with a few exceptions.”

Staff at West Suffolk Hospital are celebrating after the care it provides to patients was judged “excellent” for the second year in a row. Their use of finances also moved from “weak” up to “fair”.

Chris Bown, trust chief executive, said of the service recognition: “This rating puts us among the top 26 per cent of performers nationally, which is great news for our patients as it shows they are receiving some of the best healthcare in the country.”

He added they would not become complacent though and would be looking to maintain their performance next year and improve their financial handling further.

At Ipswich Hospital services improved on last year's performance but still left the hospital as the worst rated in Suffolk and north Essex.

Out patients waiting longer than guidelines, not rearranging enough cancelled operations within 28 days and a lack of choice for care when referred from a GP where all areas where it under-achieved.

But Andrew Reed, chief executive of the Heath Road hospital insisted they had been making good progress.

He said: “I am very pleased that this year's ratings - good for quality of services, and fair for use of resources - reflect the real progress we are making in the hospital. This is absolutely down to our staff.

“Now we must build on our progress to achieve even more in the coming months.”

NHS Suffolk, which provides healthcares facilities for the county such as doctors and dentists, received a “fair” rating for its quality of services and use of finances.

Among areas of concern was a failing on guidelines for teenage conception rates.

Julian Herbert, deputy chief executive of NHS Suffolk, said they had “ambitious plans” in place to improve the health of people in the county.

He added: “We are pleased to have improved on last year's use of resources rating and to have maintained our score for quality of services.

“However, we are an ambitious primary care trust and will continue to work hard over the next 12 months to strive for excellence and improvement in everything we do.”

Dr Amanda Jones, deputy director of public health at NHS Suffolk, added: “Reducing teenage conceptions is important and NHS Suffolk works with local authorities and local health providers to ensure young people have access to appropriate advice and services.

“Our teenage pregnancy rates are lower than the national average, but we are fully aware that they are higher in some geographical areas - particularly those which are more deprived.

“During 2007/08, when the Healthcare Commission report was put together, we carried out an extensive consultation on the sexual health services we offer and many young people were involved.

“As a result, we are developing a new community-based integrated sexual health service for people living in Suffolk which will enhance the services already in place and provide more choice to patients and particularly to vulnerable groups.

“We will also be introducing one-stop-shops where people, particularly those aged under-25, can get help and advice and take part in screening for STIs such as chlamydia. Advice and education is also offered to help teenagers deal with issues such as self esteem and body image, all of which are important.”

The “excellent” rating for the James Paget Hospital NHS Trust was described as a “landmark result” by their chief executive Adrian Pennington.

Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge was also celebrating hearing it has been awarded the highest combined rating while Suffolk Mental Health Partnership was rate “good” on both categories.