Health chiefs at loggerheads over ambulatory unit bill

Blackpool Victoria Hospital
Blackpool Victoria Hospital
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A row has broken out over who is going to foot the bill for a new ward at Blackpool Victoria Hospital.

The Combined Assessment and Treatment (CAT) service opened in June, and hopes to cut down on waiting times and to avoid unnecessary hospital admissions.

But finance director Tim Bennett said that, because it is currently unclear whether going through the service means patients have been ‘admitted’, it has yet to be decided whether it is the hospital or local commissioners – who organise and pay for health care – who are responsible.

The issue was described by hospital interim chief executive Wendy Swift as a ‘complication’, while Fylde and Wyre Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), and Blackpool CCG said in a joint statement: “The CCGs and Trust are working together to create operating systems that are designed to reduce waiting times in A&E.

“We are continuing to hold discussions to decide the best way to progress with proposals and hope to come to a resolution that will be suitable for all organisations and make best use of NHS resources.”

The service, described as a ‘new approach’ means that patients with minor conditions are assessed, diagnosed, treated and discharged on the same day, a hospital spokesman said.

Conditions dealt with there include asthma, abdominal pain, and ‘low risk’ chest pain, he added.

It is hoped the service will help the hospital meet a government-set target of seeing 95 per cent of A&E patients within four hours – with millions of pounds of funding at risk if it doesn’t – at a time of unprecedented demand.

SERVICE COMES AS VIC STRUGGLES WITH THOUSANDS MORE PATIENTS

Some 110,122 patients were admitted to hospital last year – an increase of almost 10,000 from 2009/10, statistics obtained by The Gazette from the NHS showed last month.

It led health bosses, who said the A&E department at Blackpool Victoria Hospital has also seen a seven per cent increase in attendance, to urge people to stay away unless absolutely necessary.

Consultant Simon Tucker said: “It is important the general public is aware of the alternatives available to them, not only to manage emergency department attendances, but to ensure they receive the expert advice they require promptly.”

The trust could fail to break even if it doesn’t hit its A&E targets.