GPs fine hospital for A&E failures

DOCTORS are withholding funding from Kettering General Hospital’s accident and emergency department because it is failing to treat patients quickly enough.

Nene Commissioning and Corby Healthcare, the two GP groups taking responsibility for the county’s health, may withhold up to £56,000 – a tenth of their monthly funding to the department – after it failed to meet its obligation to treat 95 per cent of patients within four hours every quarter in the past year.

A spokesman for the doctors said: “Kettering General Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has unfortunately not yet been able to achieve this target for much of this financial year and while action plans have been put in place by the trust to improve accident and emergency performance, these have not realised the changes anticipated, with the trust now acknowledging that they will not achieve this target for the 2011-12 financial year.

“We therefore have no choice but to serve an exception notice on the trust in relation to this performance, which will result in us withholding an element of contract funding from them for this financial year.”

The commissioning groups are in contractual discussions with the hospital over how much to withhold.

But an email from Richard Alsop, chief commissioning officer of Nene Commissioning, to Mike Smeeton, director of strategy and partnerships for the hospital, said the group had withheld 10 per cent of the funding from January 3 and would continue to withhold funds each month until the trust rectifies the breaches.

The commissioning groups are paying £6,724,438 to the department for accident and emergency services this financial year.

The hospital developed a rescue plan for its emergency care in September after its accident and emergency department was ranked second worst in the country for treatment times between July and September.

But the GPs asked it to revise the plan after it continued to fail to meet its contractual obligation in October, November and December.

The hospital’s chief executive, Lorene Read, said: “Achieving the 95 per cent target has been very challenging this year and overall at the moment we have achieved 92.4 per cent for the 2011-12 year to date.

“This has been disappointing but it did highlight for us the need to stand back and look beyond just accident and emergency at our whole emergency care system and the ways in which we could speed it up, improve patient flows, and reduce waits.

“We have done this through our urgent and emergency care transformation programme which we worked up throughout last year and launched in September.”

The hospital has developed a new chest pain unit to reduce waits for the 5,000 people who come to hospital with chest pain each year.

And it is speeding up its discharge process with new software and two emergency surgery nurse practitioners.

Under the revised plan its elderly short stay unit will focus on over 85-year-olds rather than over 75-year-olds.

The hospital has been unable to close beds within its surgical assessment unit as planned and the opening of its gynaecology and pregnancy assessment unit was delayed six days.

Mrs Read said the hospital is aiming to achieve the 95 per cent target for the last three months of the year.