MP calls for inquiry over hospital focus on targets

SLEAFORD and North Hykeham MP Stephen Phillips has written to the Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley, calling for an investigation into possible failures in patient care caused by an over-emphasis on hitting waiting list targets

Mr Phillips has been shown leaked documents causing him to become concerned about the conduct of the United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust in meeting 18 week treatment targets before their abolition by the present Government in 2010.

Mr Phillips says Gary Walker was dismissed from his role as chief executive of the Trust in February 2011 after bringing his concerns about the effect on patients of too great a focus on targets set by the previous Labour government.

Mr Walker has been gagged by a ‘super’ confidentiality clause as part of a compromise agreement on leaving the Trust.

Mr Phillips said: “The emphasis on targets by the last Government was known to distort secondary care but these leaked documents seem to reveal just how bad the position was.

“There is at least a suspicion that patients may have died unnecessarily as a result and I am therefore calling on the Secretary of State to release all the relevant documents and, if appropriate, to hold a public enquiry.”

He claims it appears Mr Walker was effectively forced out of his role because of his concerns that patient safety was being threatened by the need to meet targets of little benefit to patients.

The hospital trust has insisted parties involved in the case of Gary Walker reached an ‘amicable resolution’, insisting: “The top priority for the Trust is patient safety and this is reflected in the current performance of the organisation.

“Although targets are not the driving factor, we are committed to providing a high quality service and this includes patients receiving treatment in a timely manner and we have halved the numbers of patients waiting longer than 18 weeks for their treatment.”