St Albans City Hospital trust fined for trying patients’ patience

St Albans City Hospital. Photo: Danny Loo.

St Albans City Hospital. Photo: Danny Loo. - Credit: Archant

Health commissioners are set to fine the trust which runs St Albans City Hospital £500,000 a month due to overlong waiting times.

Figures for West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust (WHHT) show just 85 per cent of patients have been seen within 18 weeks of their referral and around 92 patients have been waiting for more than 52 weeks.

Because of this, Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group (HVCCG) is set to impose financial sanctions of around £500,000 a month.

WHHT chief financial officer Don Richards said:  “We have received notification from HVCCG of their intention to apply fines for April and May of this year for our under-performance against national treatment targets.

“We also anticipate notification of further fines for this year.

“We are in discussion with the CCG about how this money could be used to good effect to alleviate elective and emergency pressures at the trust.

“However, once levied, these fines will worsen our financial position.”

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The first of the HVCCG fines – relating to performance in April and May this year – has been set at £888,000.

Further fines will follow once data has been verified between the trust and the CCG, and they are expected to continue until the trust reaches the 92 per cent target level.

No patient has been judged to have suffered ‘moderate’ or ‘severe’ harm due to waiting.

At a board meeting on Thursday, November 8, HVCCG’s chief executive, Kathryn Magson, said the position at WHHT was “quite serious”.

According to a report for the meeting, the current waiting lists partly reflect the suspension of elective and routine surgery – between January and March – to cope with winter pressures.

Since then the trust has built up a “considerable backlog”.

According to the board papers, as part of a drive to cut the waiting lists, additional beds at Watford General have been ring-fenced for elective surgery – including seven for orthopaedics.

St Albans City Hospital is being used to treat more complex patients while some patients are being treated by other providers outside the NHS, including One Hatfield, the Spire Group and The Wellington Hospital.

Meanwhile a number of patients – who have been waiting for more than 18 weeks, but not yet had an out-patients appointment – are likely to be listed with other providers.

To support the trust, the board papers say HVCCG is funding a programme manager and administrators to support the outsourcing, by contacting patients and dealing with the clinical handover and auditing waiting lists.