Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Top Doctors Attack System

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Top Doctors Attack System

Article excerpt

Byline: By Louella Houldcroft Investigative Reporter

This week The Journal launched a series highlighting the injustice of the NHS performance ratings that have resulted in our flagship hospitals being downgraded from a three to a two star trust. Already we have been inundated with letters and calls of support from readers. Today, we speak to staff and patients to find out what effect the assessment has had on morale and whether they believe the system is fair.

Leading doctors at the region's flagship health trust last night condemned the Government's controversial star ratings system for penalising excellence and threatening patient care.

One week ago, the Newcastle Trust - which includes the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Freeman and General hospitals - was told it had failed to achieve three stars in the latest round of hospital ratings.

The Trust had missed one of its key targets by just 0.07pc after failing to see 127 outpatients within the 26 week target - even though many of these patients are highly complex cases referred from outside the region.

Last night, consulting staff at the Trust said the result had damaged morale "from top to bottom" at the hospitals after everyone had worked so hard to provide the best possible care for patients.

Prof Michael Griffin, Professor of Surgery and an Oesophageal cancer specialist at the RVI, said: "It is absolutely appalling how they have gone about this.

"What has been most apparent since the news came out last week is the indignation and anger felt by staff, from porters and secretaries to the medical staff, everyone feels the whole process has been so unjust.

"To penalise a trust that is actually excelling is just demoralising for staff and also detrimental to our patients."

The star indicators are drawn up by the Commission for Health Improvement, an independent health watchdog.

But Prof Tim Walls, clinical director of neurosciences and a consultant neurologist, said the indicators were "artificial" because CHI was not comparing like with like. …

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