Is our NHS beyond repair?

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Getty Images/iStockphoto - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

As political parties squabble over the future of the NHS, Poole Hospital continues to haemorrhage money. Is it being poorly managed? Or is it a victim of a broken system?

Changes in the health service are likely as NHS England sets out its stall for the next few years. But that may not be welcome in local areas that are already struggling such as Poole Hospital.

Blocked from merging with a neighbouring hospital last year (the Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals and Poole Hospital Trusts wanted to become one to save money), Poole Hospital is spending more than it is earning. A whopping deficit of almost £4m will be regarded as a good outcome this year.

The chief executive, Debbie Fleming, says that the trust has been under huge pressure in recent months. “Our attendances in A&E are up by 9 percent and our emergency admissions are up by 11 percent compared with the same time last year.” She adds that local GPs are also working flat out, and this is why the whole NHS system has to change.

Already staff at Poole Hospital are finding new ways of working to help cut costs whilst maintaining quality patient care. The Medical Investigations Unit at Poole Hospital is one of a handful in the UK led entirely by specialist nurses. Doctors rarely need to attend the unit. Blood transfusions, antibiotic drips and liver biopsies are among the treatments carried out, and patients come in just for the day. Another special unit at the hospital, RACE - or Rapid Access Consultant Evaluation - has also earned national praise. This unit, where the average age of patients is 85, is all about making sure older people get rapid attention from specialist doctors.

But just last month radiographers in Bournemouth and Poole went on strike for the first time in more than three decades. The skilled medical practitioners backed the one-day walkout in protest at “the government’s failure to increase NHS pay” in England.

Alongside cutting costs, a £4m maternity unit recently opened at the hospital, in order to handle an additional 1,400 births a year. And yet just last year the hospital was formally investigated amid concerns over its finances. A Poole Hospital spokeswoman said at the time that the investigation came as no surprise. “Our board of directors has long maintained that without the merger, the trust faces significant financial pressure.”

So are they trying to save money, or are they spending money they don’t have to improve the hospital? What is the strategy here? At best it seems that the Trust can’t make their mind up – do they scrimp and save and reduce their debt, or do they expand and hope that this investment brings in more money. Is the NHS really to blame for this situation, or is it just a case of dismal management?

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What do you think? The heart of the matter is that we all want our hospital to serve us properly. So are they making the best of a difficult financial climate or are the NHS Foundation Trusts out of their depth? And how can we ensure a healthy future for our hospitals?

Let us know your thoughts. Please email the editor


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