'Ops too soon' debate goes national

EAST Suffolk's health system is at the centre of a huge national debate today, following the news that Ipswich Hospital had been penalised for treating patients too quickly.

EAST Suffolk's health system is at the centre of a huge national debate today, following the news that Ipswich Hospital had been penalised for treating patients too quickly.

As The Evening Star exclusively revealed on Thursday, the cash-strapped hospital lost out on £2.4m last year for treating patients faster than the Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) wanted them to.

The PCTs, who pay the hospital for the services it provides, asked the hospital not to treat anyone until they had been waiting at least 122 days, despite the fact that government targets state that everyone should be seen within six months.

Andrew Lansley, the conservative shadow health secretary, said: “It is outrageous that Ipswich Hospital is being penalised for improving on the government's target, especially when the trust is crippled by deficit.


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“The government is more obsessed with meeting its targets than the interests of patients.

“In some cases it may be in the interests of a patient to wait longer than the target time and in some cases for a shorter time. Either way, targets should not override clinical decision making.”

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The situation arose after Ipswich Hospital found it had enough capacity to get through waiting lists more quickly, but when they did the operations before the 122 day limit the PCTs refused to pay.

Steve Webb, the Liberal Democrat shadow health secretary, said: “It is a complete nonsense for one part of the NHS to be penalising another for treating patients too quickly.”

The Department of Health said that health authorities were free to manage their finances in the best interests of patients as long as patients are seen and treated within the maximum six month target.

Carole Taylor-Brown, chief executive of the Suffolk East PCTs, said the 122-day target, which has now been reduced to 98 days, was in place to make sure waiting lists were managed fairly.

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