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07.08.15

Norfolk FT removed from special measures

A foundation trust in one of the most challenging local health systems in the country has been removed from special measures after a recent inspection found significant quality of care improvements – yet it still faces severe financial challenges.

Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn NHS Foundation Trust is no longer in Monitor’s special measures regime, after receiving a package of support from the regulator to improve its services.

Special measures targets hospitals that require intensive action by the CQC, Monitor and the NHS Trust Development Authority.

In this case, the hospital’s location in West Norfolk meant that it served a “relatively isolated small town in a sparsely populated rural area, where the prevalence of long-term medical conditions and the proportion of frail elderly people are well above average”, according to a Monitor report.

Despite a quarter of the population being over the age of 65, the foundation trust runs the only acute hospital within a 38-mile radius.

It has therefore been subject to regulatory intervention for more than three years to address operational, clinical and financial problems, including a predicted gap of around £12m a year in health and care services in the future.

And despite improvements in care, the trust still faces the same economic challenges. As a result the team responsible for removing the trust from special measures will now have to focus on fixing its finances.

This includes implementing recommendations by a team of Monitor experts to secure clinical and financially sustainable services for patients, thus clearing the hospital’s current deficit of almost £14m.

However the situation is so problematic that health leader will have to look into either radically changing the trust’s services or finding additional funding from commissioners.

Paul Dinkin, transformation and turnaround director at Monitor, said: “The leadership of Queen Elizabeth’s hospital has made great progress in improving for patients and deserves to be removed from special measures.

“At the same time, our team of experts identified significant long-term challenges to the sustainability of the local health and care system. These undertakings, agreed between Monitor and the trust, will go a long way towards fixing these problems. But further changes to how healthcare is funded and provided will need to be considered by the trust and their commissioners.”

Monitor and NHS England will work together to support the problematic health system in West Norfolk and will “closely scrutinise” the trust’s progress in implementing further service changes.

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