Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn criticised by NHS regulator Monitor

An NHS regulator has criticised the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn for failing to meet its performance and finance targets.

Monitor, an independent regulator of NHS Foundation Trusts, has revealed it believes the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn to be in 'significant breach' of the terms of its authorisation.

The regulator said the hospital had experienced financial problems stemming from an ongoing failure to plan effectively and that it recorded a 'high financial risk' for the first two quarters of the current financial year.

The announcement comes after the hospital was told to make improvements after a routine investigation by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

The health regulator's review of compliance expressed concerns about some aspects of dignity, privacy and nutrition at the hospital.

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Last night, a hospital spokesman said the trust was aware of the concerns raised by Monitor and was already working hard to address them.

Merav Dover, compliance director at Monitor, said: 'The concerns we have with this trust are based on the board's failure to plan robustly and to make sure that these plans are followed through.

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'Monitor is taking action at this early stage to ensure that the trust addresses its underlying performance and financial issues effectively.

'Monitor is very clear that while financial stability gives a platform for performance improvement, efficiency must not be achieved at the expense of quality. The aim is to ensure that patients in the King's Lynn area continue to benefit from improved services.'

Monitor has also said it decided against using its formal powers of intervention and will keep the trust under close scrutiny.

The trust will also have to report to Monitor regularly against the delivery of a robust recovery plan.

The hospital was expected to save �7.6m from its budget this year but the trust now predicts it will only achieve a �5.3m saving by April.

A spokesman for the trust said: 'The financial climate we are working in is becoming increasingly challenging. All NHS organisations are being expected to deliver significant levels of year-on-year financial efficiencies.

'The trust needs to continue to make a surplus whilst continuing to deliver high quality services and an excellent patient experience. This is a tough and complex challenge.'

The spokesman said the issues raised by Monitor had been already acknowledged by the board as requiring urgent action.

He continued: 'This prompted work that is already under-way and the engagement of [financial consultants] KPMG to support us in generating ideas for 2012 through to 2014 that will deliver what the trust is trying to achieve.

'We anticipate a challenging savings target of over �10m for next year, so it is important the organisation has detailed achievable implementation plans for the main schemes the initial work identifies.'

The trust's director of finance, David Stonehouse, said: 'At the heart of all this crucial work is our drive to deliver the highest quality of patient care.

'We believe that by working closely with our staff, and by drawing on KPMG's experience in other NHS organisations of developing the type of programmes we need, that our investment will lead to a long-term sustainable solution for the benefit of all our patients and staff.'

Patricia Wright, the trust's chief executive, added: 'I appreciate that for all our staff this news will be disappointing. In October, the board recognised that to achieve our challenging financial plans prompt action would need to be taken.

'This is why we have been pushing so hard to develop new plans and implement the immediate changes that we had identified were necessary. [Chairman] Kate Gordon and I recognise that everyone is working really hard to develop and implement them.

'We don't underestimate the task we are setting the organisation but it is essential that we continue our efforts through to the end of the financial year and beyond. This will give Monitor the assurance it needs that we will meet the targets we have set ourselves.'

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