Hospitals take short term measures to meet targetsBMJ 2003; 326 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.326.7398.1054 (Published 15 May 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:1054
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There is also a penalty to be paid for successfully delivering
Department of Health targets as evidenced by the £44 million financial
blackhole that has opened up in North Bristol. The Trust's 2001/02
annual report indicated the trust overspending by £4.1 million to buy
treatment in the private health care sector to ensure no patient waited
longer than 15 months. The trust financial papers in September 2002
indicated that holding targets at 15 months would cost between £3 to £5
million and to achieve a 12 month target would cost an additional £5 to 7
million - £8 to 12 million in total. Even as far back as April 2002 the
board minutes show that the finance director was concerned about the
apparent loss of financial control. The external auditor
PricewaterhouseCoopers signed off its opinion for 2001/02 on trust
finances and internal financial control on 6 September 2002.
Targets that the Department of Health have felt to be important may
have been successfully delivered but at what cost to the overall health
services around Bristol and in the Avon, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire SHA
area? Surely this financial blackhole could have been avoided with proper
executive leadership in relation to internal financial control measures
and notice being taken of mounting nursing cost deficits and unfunded
activity warnings? Hopefully the Avon, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire
report on this matter will be placed in the public domain in the spirit of
open and transparent government and management of health services so that
the public and those who work locally in the NHS can learn why financial
control systems failed.
 Mark Gould. Bristol deficit chair opts to go.
Health Serv J 2003;113(5855):10-11
Competing interests: No competing interests