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Poor relation - union fear for hospital

PUBLISHED: 04:15 31 May 2002 | UPDATED: 12:01 03 March 2010

IF three of the region's best hospitals are granted special status, it would leave Ipswich a poor relation, UNISON claimed today.

Despite a department of health spokesman saying that all hospitals were welcome to apply for Foundation status in theory, UNISON today revealed Ipswich had not been shortlisted by the Government because it didn't fit the criteria.

IF three of the region's best hospitals are granted special status, it would leave Ipswich a poor relation, UNISON claimed today.

Despite a department of health spokesman saying that all hospitals were welcome to apply for Foundation status in theory, UNISON today revealed Ipswich had not been shortlisted by the Government because it didn't fit the criteria.

The Evening Star revealed last week that some doctors working in intensive care at the hospital were concerned that lack of status could result in the closure of the specialist unit.

Hospital chiefs allayed those fears and said that there was no question that it was in danger and said the reverse – to get the go-ahead for a state-of-the-art centre with the latest technology – was planned.

Tracey Lambert, regional professional officer for the health workers' union, said: "The Government has chosen the best achieving hospitals for consideration, under a list of criteria set by the Secretary of State.

"They include Peterborough, the Norfolk and Norwich, and Addenbrooke's, in our region."

But she said Ipswich missing out, could have huge repercussions on morale.

She said: "Whether it turns out to be correct or not, the creation of Foundation status hospitals will give patients the impression they are getting a second rate service at other hospitals like Ipswich.

"It will lead to a two-tier health system, with some hospitals left as the poor relation.

"Staff morale will be undermined, and staff will also be attracted to working at Foundation status hospitals instead of Ipswich."

Ms Lambert added: "Instead of coming up with this kind of gimmick, the Government should be concentrating on raising standards. As it is, Foundation Status hospitals will be able to opt out of performance targets."

Foundation status will free hospitals from Government control, so they can ignore targets set by Whitehall.

They will also be able to manage their own budgets, and plough cash from selling NHS land back into services.

They will be 'public interest companies,' liberated from monitoring by the Department of Health, and held to account through cash-for-performance contracts.

The blow for Ipswich Hospital comes after doctors revealed they feared the intensive care unit would be closed.

Both the hospital and the Strategic Health Authority denied there was any such plot.

But the hospital's bid for a new intensive care unit has been dogged by delays.

July 2000:

The Star revealed that urgent operations were having to be cancelled because of a lack of beds and staff. The hospital wanted to build a new unit costing £4.5million, to add an extra nine beds.

April 2001:

The plan contained three major flaws. Not enough space had been left between beds to stop cross infection, intensive care and high dependency beds were in separate areas, and the design restricted transfer of patients to intensive care.

The hospital submitted a more expensive design costing £10.7m.

July 2001:

The Star revealed that plan was rejected at the last hurdle by the NHS regional office, despite having the backing of Suffolk Health. The bid had to be resubmitted, causing months of delay.

November 2001:

Talks about the revised plan –which was at this stage competing with stiff competition from other hospitals for funding - were delayed. The NHS regional office promised to consider it in January instead.

May 2002:

Doctors revealed their fears the intensive care unit could close, but the hospital and the Strategic Health Authority denied that, and say improvements need to be funded instead.

The SHA awaits Ipswich Hospital's latest plan.


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