Hospital targets may have killed patients, says Sleaford and North Hykeham MP
Patients may have died in Lincolnshire hospitals because of a Government's obsession with targets, an MP has claimed.
Stephen Phillips has seen leaked documents which he says seem to demonstrate a number of "grave concerns". Mr Phillips says the documents show hospital staff may have made mistakes because they were put under "increasing pressure".
The Sleaford and North Hykeham MP has written to Health Secretary Andrew Lansley claiming the Department of Health "rigorously enforced" targets, despite knowing the risks. He goes on to claim the documents suggest that former chief executive of United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust Gary Walker, was forced out of his role for "placing patient safety over bureaucratic box ticking".
And that another senior staff member quit because they were disillusioned with "unrealistic" targets from the previous government which "produced conditions of risk". In his letter to the Health Secretary, Mr Phillips writes: "You are well aware of the Stafford Hospital scandal in relation to which we await the final report of the public enquiry.
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"The documents which I have seen give rise to at least the suspicion that there has been a scandal of similar proportions at United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust.
"The fact that this does not appear to have been investigated, properly or at all, is not acceptable to me.
"Nor is it acceptable to my constituents, the vast majority of whom access their secondary care through ULHT."
Mr Phillips's letter relates to the enforcement of the national 18-week target in Lincolnshire. The target states that any patients referred to the hospital by their GP must commence treatment within 18 weeks.
The monitoring of this target was abolished by the Government in June 2010.
Mr Phillips, who is basing is accusations on leaked documents, has now demanded that all "relevant materials" be made public.
A statement from ULHT to the Echo this week said: "There is no suggestion that targets have any impact on numbers of patients dying at the trust.
"We meet regularly with the PCT to monitor our mortality rate and have a robust action plan in place to ensure the rate continues to reduce.
"A new management team has been in place at the trust since April 2011 and the top priority is patient safety.
"With regard to Gary Walker, the parties reached an amicable resolution of the differences between them and agreed not to comment further."
A Department of Health spokesperson said: "What matters most to patients is whether they get better or not.
"We do still expect the NHS to be held to account for things like waiting times, but what should come first every time is getting the best clinical results for patients.
"That's why we are introducing clinical outcome measures across the NHS - and why patients' clinical welfare should always come before meeting targets."