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Hospital bosses lose £3milllion trying to meet patient targets

PUBLISHED: 17:11 21 October 2009 | UPDATED: 10:50 12 August 2010

GOVERNMENT targets for patient treatment led health chiefs to spend £3 million using independent health bases. South London Healthcare Trust (SLHT), which is made up of the former Bromley Hospitals Trust (BHT), Queen Mary s, Sidcup (QMS) and Woolwich s Q

GOVERNMENT targets for patient treatment led health chiefs to spend £3 million using independent health bases.

South London Healthcare Trust (SLHT), which is made up of the former Bromley Hospitals Trust (BHT), Queen Mary's, Sidcup (QMS) and Woolwich's Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH), made the loss because it couldn't meet the government's 18-week patient referral target.

A Times Freedom of Information request revealled that from July 1, 2008, to April 1, 2009 - the latest information available - SLHT lost £2,776,610, a figure likely to have hit £3 million in the last six months.

Yet the trust, which provided the data, would not tell the Times how much of its accumulative loss was paid directly to private sector clinics.

When asked how the trust had calculated it's loss, a spokesperson said: "The cost for using private providers differs for each type of service, there is no set cost."

Failure of SLHT to meet its targets can result in it being fined by its commissioning primary care trusts in Bromley, Bexley and Greenwich by up to £400,000 per month.

Hospitals receive a set amount of funding for each patient they treat which has led to some competition between hospitals for patients, and therefore funding.

Each time the trust fails to meet the 18-week target, it is not only being penalised by the primary care trust, but is also losing out on this funding.

The figures peaked in January when the trust, which is currently saddled with a £142 million debt, had not been formed and the three hospitals operated independently.

Sending patients for private sector operations that month cost BHT £326,000 and QMS £119,247.

The peak came as BHT was in the midst of finalising plans to close Orpington Treatment Centre.

The two-theatre, 66 bedded, £8 million centre which opened in 2003 was, in BHT's own words: "developed to support the achievement of NHS Plan targets."

But a leaked email to the Times revealed how in November 2008 there were some 700 patients awaiting operations who did not have appointments.

Clerical staff who had no clinical training were being asked to do overtime to phone them and ask if they were ready for their procedures.

Acting divisional manager at Orpington Hospital, Claire Saunders, had written: "We will need to substantially increase the numbers of patients on the waiting list that we are sending out to the private sector to upwards of 700 patients.

"In order to do this quickly the patients will all need to be phoned and asked whether they are fit, ready and willing to be passed on to BMI."

A spokesperson for SLHT said: "We are now severely restricting the outsourcing of clinical work to ensure that we retain our income and also ensure consistent quality of patient care."

kate.nelson@archant.co.uk

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