Hunts hospital just misses out on excellent rating

HINCHINGBROOKE Hospital came within a whisker of an excellent rating from the Healthcare Commission for the quality of its services to patients in 2007/08. But, although it met all the other 43 core standards on which acute hospitals are assessed, it mi

HINCHINGBROOKE Hospital came within a whisker of an "excellent" rating from the Healthcare Commission for the quality of its services to patients in 2007/08.

But, although it met all the other 43 core standards on which acute hospitals are assessed, it missed out on achieving the standard for management of medical devices.

That was the difference between excellence and its final rating of "good".

But Hinchingbrooke was rated "weak" for management of resources, in spite of breaking even financially.


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NHS Cambridgeshire, as the primary care trust now styles itself, also broke even, but was rated only "fair" for use of resources. Both trusts carry historic debt on their balance sheets, meaning these scores are the best they can achieve until the debt is expunged.

In Hinchingbrooke's case that is unlikely to happen in the short term unless the Government decides to write off nearly £40million. NHS Cambridgeshire, however, with an annual budget 10 times the size of Hinchingbrooke's and less debt is in a different position. It has agreed plans with the East of England Strategic Health Authority to repay it over the coming three years - hence the better rating.

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Hinchingbrooke chief executive Mark Millar said: "Hinchingbrooke staff should see this score as an acknowledgement of their hard work in improving standards during what continues to be a challenging time for the trust. The Healthcare Commission report finally reflects what we have known for a long time, that we provide a good quality of service for our patients.

"We only narrowly missed out on an 'excellent' score as we did not meet one of the core standards, safe use of medical devices, but we have plans in place for a new medical devices library from January 2009. Now we are striving to achieve an 'excellent' score for quality of services next year."

Dr Dennis Cox, St Ives GP and NHS Cambridgeshire's director of clinical redesign and service improvement - the trust was also rated "fair" for quality of services - said: "The quality of patient services across Cambridgeshire is our top priority and it is pleasing that the report recognises we fully met all 24 of the core standards including where these relate to safety and patient focus. This is a significant improvement on last year's 'partly-met' score for core standards."

Both performances are eclipsed by the formerly Huntingdon-based mental health trust, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust, which was rated "good" for quality of services and "excellent" for use of resources.

Chief executive Karen Bell, who used to run Huntingdonshire's PCT, said: "To be rated among the best NHS trusts nationally is a magnificent achievement, and I thank all our dedicated and hard-working staff who have made this possible. This is another external accreditation of the quality and safety of our services."

Papworth Hospital, one of Europe's leading cardio-thoracic centres that is due to move soon to the bio-medical campus at Addenbrooke's in Cambridge, achieved a "good" rating for quality of services and "excellent" for use of resources. Addenbrooke's itself achieved "excellent" ratings on both measures, as it did the previous year.

Worst performer was the East of England Ambulance Service, which was judged "weak" on both measures. But chief executive Hayden Newton blamed poor record-keeping for the apparent failure to achieve service targets.

"We discovered that, on a small number of occasions, 'on scene times' for community first responders and healthcare professionals other than ambulance service staff were logged incorrectly in our Norwich control centre.

"Because of these errors, our data were classified as 'not returned' and we received a mandatory weak rating for quality of services. This score does not reflect the care we provide to the public in the east of England."

In fact, he added there had been a marked improvement in response times since a year ago, in spite of an increase in the number of calls.

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