NHS finances under scrutiny

PUBLISHED: 10:46 02 October 2008 | UPDATED: 09:30 11 May 2010

Norfolk's flagship hospital has been given the top rating for its financial performance - but some other NHS bodies in the region need to handle their cash better, according to an independent watchdog.

Norfolk's flagship hospital has been given the top rating for its financial performance - but some other NHS bodies in the region need to handle their cash better, according to an independent watchdog.

The annual Auditors' Local Evaluation from the Audit Commission shows that many NHS trusts have improved since last year. The ratings are important because patient care is likely to be affected by how well NHS bodies manage their money.

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Lynn, the West Suffolk Hospital in Bury and NHS Norfolk all improved their grading from the worst score, one, last year, to two, which means “only at minimum requirements, adequate performance”.

But the East of England Ambulance Trust has got worse, falling from a two to a one, which means “below minimum requirements, adequate performance”. NHS Yarmouth and Waveney stayed at level one.

A spokesman for the ambulance trust said: “The score relates to our financial management and internal governance last year, since when significant changes and improve-ments have been made. We have appointed a new finance director and put in place an action plan. We fulfilled our obligations to meet financial balance last year and this score in no way reflects on the excellent care we provide to the public in the east of England.”

David Matthews, director of finance and performance at NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney, said: “We are disappointed to have received a 'weak' rating. According to the report, there were four areas which did not meet their requirements and these have already been corrected as part of an action plan to work towards a 'good' rating this financial year.”

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital got the top rating of four for a second year. It was one of just 14 trusts in the country to get the top rating, and the only acute hospital to get four for two years running. It was one of just two hospital trusts to get the top score in the specific area of value for money.

Acting chief executive Anna Dugdale said: “The best-performing hospitals are always built on the firm foundation of sound financial management and a culture of delivering value for money. It's a tribute to all our staff that once again the Audit Commission has identified the Norfolk and Norwich as among the very best performers in the country.”

David Stonehouse, NHS Norfolk's director of finance, said: “It is clear from this year's results that NHS Norfolk has made real progress and this is reflected by the improvement of our scoring from one to two.”

QEH finance director Jeremy Cook said: “I am delighted to report that the trust has made considerable improvement over the last two years. As the trust is planning that historical debt will be cleared in 2008-9, further improvement is expected next year.”

The Audit Commission evaluation does not look at foundation trusts, which is why the James Paget University Hospital and Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Trust are not included. The N&N was not a foundation trust when the evaluation was carried out. The scoring is based on five criteria of value for money, financial management, financial reporting, financial standing and internal control, each rated from one to four.

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