'Mystery' patients cost Staffordshire hospital £700k
A HOSPITAL has been hit with a bill of more than £700,000 for treating thousands of extra patients.
But health bosses are baffled why the workload in outpatient clinics at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire (UHNS) has soared at a time when GPs are sending fewer cases to them.
Now an inquiry has been launched to find what is behind the growing demand.
Between April and August, the hospital saw around 6,700 outpatients more than the numbers paid for in a contract with GPs in Newcastle and Staffordshire Moorlands.
The extra work has cost the UHNS £734,000 and is expected to continue to rise in the coming months.
The trust is already £16 million overspent and seeking a bail-out from the West Midlands Strategic Health Authority to return to the black by the end of the financial year.
North Staffordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) which is led by GPs and purchases hospital care for the population admits it is mystified where the hospital’s extra outpatients are being referred from.
Waterhouses GP Dr Sunil Angris, CCG joint director of planned care, told a board meeting yesterday: “While this UHNS contract is over-performing we have still seen a reduction in outpatient appointments from our GPs.
“Work is going on to monitor where the demand is coming from.”
Figures released by the CCG show that between April and August, the hospital had taken in 2,208 first outpatients appointments more than the 11,683 paid for in the contract.
The extra work had cost £324,730.
And the trust had spent a further £409,447 over contract on giving follow-up appointments to 4,586 more people than the 25,707 budgeted for.
Dr Angris added: “As commissioners, we have done what we have needed to do to reduce demands on the hospital. It is a therefore paradoxical that numbers seen as outpatients at UHNS are going up and we are working with the hospital to try and understand why this is.”
The GPs have reduced referrals by setting up alternative services in surgeries and health centres for patients with conditions including skin, hand and eye problems.
CCG deputy finance director Adrian Tomkins said: “These figures will be used when we agree contracts with UHNS for next year. But all the financial risk of this over-performance is taken by the UHNS.”
Hospital spokesman Andrew Ashcroft said: “We work closely with commissioners to ensure there is sufficient outpatient capacity to meet the needs of patients.
“We are working with commissioners as they implement changes that reduce demand for our services.”