NHS bosses put targets before patients as GPs asked not to use West Herts hospitals

Local Liberal Democrats have long been concerned by both the clinical and the financial performance of the West Herts Hospital Trust which runs the Watford, Hemel Hempstead and St Albans hospitals. The Trust has a long history financial deficits, a chronic failure to maintain its buildings and, in 2013, a higher than expected standardised mortality indicator.

Last year it was branded as “inadequate” by health watchdog, the Care Quality Commission, and put under “special measures”.

Next month the Trust is due for a follow-up inspection by the Commission. However, even before the inspectors arrive things don’t look good. The Trust is failing to hit the national target for seeing GP referred patients in less than 18 weeks. 

Luckily for the Trust, however, they are getting a helping hand towards their coming re-assessment. The local Clinical Commissioning Group has contacted GP practices and asked them as a matter of urgency not to refer patients for 8 major treatment areas to the West Herts Hospital Trust during August, September and October. They should instead refer their patients – other than those needed to be seen urgently or within 2-weeks - to other NHS and independent sector providers.

Local Liberal Democrats are asking three questions:

1. Should our Herts Valley Clinical Commissioning Group (HVCCG) be asking GPs to send NHS patients to independent sector hospitals and clinics?

2. Should they be asking GPs to divert patients away from the Trust like this at all?

3. Isn’t this artificial suppression of demand going to distort the situation in the Trust’s hospitals that the Care Quality Commission is trying to assess objectively?

Lib Dem County Councillor for Tring and the Villages, Nick Hollinghurst said, “We want answers to these questions. I shall be asking HCC’s Health Scrutiny Committee to look into this and ask both the West Herts Trust and the CCG to explain what looks like some rather cynical game-playing!”

Liberal Democrats Town Councillor in Berkhamsted Garrick Stevens said:

“This is an outrageous situation. Not only does it frustrate the work of the Care Quality Commission but it calls into question the willingness and ability of the Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group to impartially commission health services on behalf of the public.”

“This major disruption by the HVCCG to the GP and patient choice of acute services in West Herts raises serious questions on where the HVCCG’s priorities actually lie.”

Liberal Democrat County Health spokesperson Chris White added: 'This is very worrying, especially in the context of the national financial position facing the NHS. I will certainly be raising the issue at the next meeting of the Health Scrutiny Committee.'

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