Mixed results on region's health check

MARK NICHOLLS Results of the annual health check for health organisations are revealed today, showing a mixed picture across the eastern region.

MARK NICHOLLS

Results of the annual health check for health organisations are revealed today, showing a mixed picture across the eastern region.

While there are areas of excellence, there is a clear picture of the need for some health trusts to improve their performance.

Unsurprisingly, financial performance weighed down the ratings, particularly for cash-strapped primary care trusts that have been struggling to pay off large deficits since last year's NHS reorganisation.

But many are optimistic for the future following the ratings published by independent watchdog the Healthcare Commission.

Norfolk Primary Care Trusts' head of performance Peter Gosling said: “I think we are providing a good level of service for Norfolk residents but there are areas for improvement.”

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Trusts are assessed in areas ranging from the quality of food to finances, clinical governance, the quality of care, emergency planning and cancer treatment. Other targets include access to GP care, and cutting infections such as C.diff and MRSA, waiting times, smoking and teenage pregnancy, and meeting a maximum 18-week wait from GP referral to treatment.

The Great Yarmouth and Waveney PCT met all the key core targets and has made major inroads into its inherited debts.

Nationally, 394 trusts in England were assessed on a rating covering weak, fair, good and excellent.

In the East, many PCTs were branded “fair” in the quality of care, but were all “weak” in the use of resources, which effectively relates to poor financial performance.

However, most PCTs felt this was a reflection of the logistical upheaval of merging smaller trusts into larger county-wide organisations under the major NHS restructuring of last year.

And some, particularly Norfolk PCT, felt the quality of services it delivered and its financial performance were improving, the latter to a point where it expects to wipe out a £50m debt and break even.

Because of the restructuring, there was no direct comparison for 2005-06 for the PCTs, but the tone for their predecessor organisations was of fair or weak performances

There were pockets of excellence in the hospitals, where the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital got high ratings and emerged as one of the top performers in the region.

However, a picture emerged of the challenges of juggling the finances.

James Paget University Hospital at Gorleston received an “excellent” rating for its use of resources but was only “fair” in the quality of service.

Whereas the Queen Elizabeth Hospital at King's Lynn and the West Suffolk Hospital at Bury St Edmunds were rated “excellent” in the quality of services they provide but “weak” in financial performance.

The Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Trust was good in both categories, an improvement on the previous year.

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