Cash redirected to 'prop' up A&E
MONEY has been removed from mental healthcare in Staffordshire and redirected to try and mprove the 'poor' service patients receive at an A&E unit.
Sums have also been taken from community NHS schemes which were planned to ease pressure on the University Hospital of North Staffordshire's struggling accident and emergency department.
Instead the money – which runs into millions of pounds – was spent on tackling the hospital's A&E crisis by buying extra beds and services and bringing in staff to manage them.
But hospital leaders have been warned they may now have to hand some of the cash back through fines which could be imposed by the area's NHS funding bodies for missing targets.
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Despite the extra investment the unit is still missing Government targets for 95 per cent of patients to be treated and sent home, or admitted to a ward, within four hours of their arrival.
Latest figures show the performance had fallen to just 73 per cent one week last month.
And many mainly elderly patients are being kept waiting in the department for more than 10 hours to be transferred to a ward.
Leaders of the county's primary care trusts (PCTs), which finance most of the hospital's services, said that the delays meant that several times a week people were not getting the level of service they deserve.
The PCTs' joint chief executive Graham Urwin said: "I cannot over estimate the poor performance in A&E in North Staffordshire despite extra funds to buy extra beds, places, services in the community as well as the management of the process.
"Several times a week at present patients are not getting the service they have a right to.
"I make no apology for giving this issue the absolute maximum level of our attention."
PCT lay director Barry Machin said: "Cash has had to be pulled from other services and that can no longer be spent on things like developing new pathways of care.
"We do not have a bottomless pot of money so it has to be diverted from elsewhere to sort out this problem."
The hospital has already been fined millions of pounds for missing A&E targets.
Ian Syme, co-ordinator of North Staffordshire campaigning group Healthwatch, said: "Patients are coming into A&E from the community where there is a dearth of specialists and skills to keep them out of hospital – and district nurses are left at breaking point.
"Sure, the University Hospital does have things to address but instead of jumping all over it all the time there are other areas of the local health system that need to raise their performance."
PCT planning director Dawn Wickham added: "We are all aware what the University Hospital needs to be doing but social care providers, the community health trust and primary care also need to be doing more on this issue and we must put that challenge to them all."