Mixed results for NHS trusts in latest review

Wigan Infirmary
Wigan Infirmary
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A new report on performance and finance in the NHS paints a mixed picture for the borough’s hospitals.

Wrightington, Wigan And Leigh NHS Foundation Trust was ranked as the second best in the country for cancer care, but one of the worst for the performance of its A&E unit.

The data comes in a report from NHS Improvement highlighting the issues faced by the NHS during the fourth quarter of 2017-18.

There have been challenges in a host of areas at hospitals around England during what was described as the “most challenging winter periods that the NHS has had”.

WWL met all cancer targets listed and was identified as the second best trust in the country for patients starting treatment for cancer within 62 days of a referral.

The target is for 85 per cent of patients to be seen, with the trust scoring 93.09 per cent.

But the report also ranks the trust as the seventh worst in the country when it comes to its A&E department.

The NHS standard is for 95 per cent of patients to be seen within four hours, but Wigan achieved just 70.47 per cent.

It has failed to meet the target for some time and, like many hospitals, has struggled to cope with demand over winter.

Only five A&E units nationwide met the target. A total of 83.5 per cent of A&E patients in England were admitted, transferred or treated within four hours - a fall from 86.5 per cent for the previous year, the report states.

The report reveals the NHS provider sector ended the year with a deficit of £960m - £464m above the plan set.

WWL expected to have a deficit of £1.53m but actually ended with a surplus of £7.853m.

The report shows that at the end of March, 2,647 patients in England were waiting more than a year for treatment, compared to 1,513 the previous year.

None of these patients were in Wigan.

More than 5m people attended A&E during January, February and March, which led to more than 1.1m hospital admissions. In Wigan, a total of 21,195 people went to A&E.

The report highlights that NHS providers in England did not meet targets for diagnostic tests, referral to treatment times and some cancer care targets.

In Wigan only 0.73 per cent of patients waited longer than expected for the tests, within the one per cent target.

The trust met referral to treatment times for 93.89 per cent of people, surpassing the 92 per cent target.

There were 13 cases of infection C difficile at the trust.

The report also shows the NHS provider sector ended the year with a “challenging level of vacancies” of more than 92,000 posts.

That figure has been revealed after the trust’s chief executive Andrew Foster, pictured right, described the refusal of visas for 100 doctors from overseas - including 14 hoping to join WWL - as “bonkers”.

NHS Improvement argued the figures show NHS staff displayed “incredible resilience” in meeting demand.

It said the NHS had “broadly achieved financial balance for the year” after NHS England provisionally reported it had managed a £955m underspend for the commissioning of healthcare services in 2017-18.

Ian Dalton, chief executive of NHS Improvement, said: “Hundreds of thousands more patients have been to A&Es this year but the NHS did not buckle under the pressure.

“Despite epic challenges, NHS staff up and down the country displayed incredible resilience and saw more patients than ever before within four hours.

“More than two-thirds of providers ended the year on budget or better than planned. Given rising demand and record vacancies, this is an important achievement.”

A spokesman for WWL said: “Treating patents in accordance with the national 62-day cancer standard remains a priority for Wrightington, Wigan And Leigh NHS Foundation Trust, which is reflected in us being one of the top performing trusts nationally.

“Our high performance also extends to the 18-week national treatment time which sees us consistently in the top 10 per cent of performing providers in the country.

“This is a great source of pride for all our staff involved in the patient’s pathway.

“Overall, the Wigan locality achieved 80 per cent in quarter four once all unscheduled care activity was taken into account.

“This is significantly better than the reported position and matches the reporting standards of other acute providers.

“Whilst we expect an increased demand over the winter period, and plan accordingly, there was no respite during last year and the ‘winter’ pressures continued all year round.

“Our emergency department was not only affected by this increase in demand at the front door, but also by the delays that our wards have encountered in transferring patients to other hospitals and care settings. This delay was due to the increased demand experienced by all health and social care providers.”

He said staff had worked “tirelessly” and changes had been made, including opening a new GP-led primary care centre and the co-location of the minor injury unit.

He continued: “Thanks to these changes, and many other improvements, the Wigan locality has become one of the best performing systems in Greater Manchester in May.

“The trust’s financial position for quarter four saw us achieving our control total and, in turn, access the national bonus scheme resulting in a year-end surplus of £8.6m.

“Surplus funds are entirely reinvested into patient care and facilities and fund the capital investment plan of 18/19.

“In 2018/19 our targets are reset and we must achieve savings of £14.5m for the current financial year to hit the plan set by the regulator.”