Key hospital clinic lacks sufficient staff and funding

PUBLISHED: 16:56 25 June 2008 | UPDATED: 13:22 06 May 2010

A KEY clinic at St Albans City Hospital is running short-staffed and without sufficient funding for the patients who use it. The situation at the diabetes clinic came to light after a patient from St Albans had his annual appointment put back four times b

A KEY clinic at St Albans City Hospital is running short-staffed and without sufficient funding for the patients who use it.

The situation at the diabetes clinic came to light after a patient from St Albans had his annual appointment put back four times between January and July.

When he complained to the clinic he was told by one of the consultants that there were not enough doctors to cover the throughput of patients so if anyone was away, the clinic had to be cancelled and appointments put back.

In addition, the Primary Care Trust (PCT) which funds patients who use the clinic, would not pay for many of the outpatient appointments because they did not accept they were necessary.

That left the clinic in the impossible situation of having to fit in more patients than it could see in the knowledge that the West Herts Hospitals Trust, which operates the clinic, receives no payment for some patients.

The patient, who is 73 and has suffered from diabetes for more than 30 years, was told that a solution was being sought to the problems and one of the main changes would be to ensure that supervision of the illness was carried out in the community with specialists providing advice and support.

But the patient, who finally got his appointment at the clinic this month after it had been put back four times since it was initially scheduled in January, felt the input of specialists was invaluable.

He said: "To an extent it is monitored by my own GP who supplies insulin and things like that but GPs are not specialists. I think that the yearly appointment I have is necessary because the Diabetes Clinic has the expertise to get you through the treatment."

When he had his appointment in June, he was told to come back in six months next time.

A spokesperson for the West Herts PCT said they had agreed an "appropriate number" of follow-up appointments per patients to take place in hospital with the West Herts Hospitals Trust.

She added: "This reflects the best national practice of patient care and is not to do with money."

She said the PCT was committed to patients receiving care as locally as possible and many could see their GPs or specialist nurses for follow-up appointments. A review of diabetes care and the best balance between care in hospital, with GPs and patients caring for themselves was being carried out.

But she added: "Until we have agreed this new way of working including discussing it with local people who have diabetes, we are continuing to fund the current service at existing levels."

A spokesperson for the hospitals trust said they had experienced problems in covering short-notice absences, particularly of junior doctors, in the diabetes clinic which had created delays in rebooking follow-up appointments. She added: "We are working with the speciality to address the situation.

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