The Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital (“RD&E”) is now in its twentieth consecutive month of failing to meet the 62-day cancer diagnosis target set by the government. With early diagnosis often cited as the key to survival, the Clinical Commissioning Group (“CCG”) has called for a clinical harm review to be carried out on patients whose diagnosis has now fallen outside the 62 day window.
Hospitals are reviewed every 3 months to see whether or not they are hitting the crucial target, and RD&E has found itself in the press following the last 5 reviews for failing to comply. The damage is however not contained to just those patients unfortunate enough to have fallen outside of the timeframe, with the CCG fining the hospital and withholding 2% of its funding until it can at least agree a plan of action to resolve the situation. It is not known exactly where those budget deficits are being felt, but it is possible that patients outside of the cancer setting are those whose care is being compromised by lack of funding.
One must question the benefit of such a draconian penalty. Fiscal penalties on an overstretched hospital is akin to starving a malnourished child. Failing hospitals should be held to account for errors in management and care but logic would dictate that the CCG should be implementing measures to help a hospital in crisis rather than kick it whilst it’s down.
One of the main concerns of the CCG is the hospital’s failure to come up with a plan to tackle the problem. After nearly two years of failure, the hospital has not been able to agree a plan of action with the NHS Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group, and this is being penned as the route cause of the on-going delays.
When commenting on criticism in the past, the RD&E has suggested that it is a victim of its own success. It is one of only 20 hospitals in the UK with the latest robotic surgical equipment and as a result its urology department has seen an increase in referrals for patients throughout the south west. This increase means that resources have to be spread much wider and attention cannot be given to just cancer patients. It is suggesting that lack of resources in other neighbouring hospitals is allowing those hospitals to offload patients to Exeter, reducing their lists but pushing Exeter’s to breaking point.
RD&E has said that it has recruited extra staff and is trying to free up capacity in theatres to deal with cancer patients. It now needs to agree a realistic plan with the CCG to bridge the gap in cancer services. As far as we know, RD&E has not responded to the latest criticism in the press.
If you or anyone you know has been affected by delays in treatment at the RD&E or elsewhere, contact our specialist lawyers on 0800 316 8892.