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Missed target 'due to winter backlog of cancelled operations'
HEALTH bosses have been explaining why one of the region's biggest hospital trusts is under investigation for failing to meet national targets.
South Tees Hospitals NHS Trust - which runs the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough and the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton - is being investigated by the health regulator Monitor.
The NHS regulator is concerned at what is describes as "persistent failure" to meet waiting list targets, coupled with an increase in hospital infections.
There is also concern over the number of so-called never events which are so serious they should never happen.
It said the issues may signal wider problems in the way the trust is run.
In a briefing sent out to staff, trust chief executive Professor Tricia Hart welcomed the investigation and explained the background.
She said the failure to meet the national 18-week target for referral to treatment time - known as RTT - for three out of four quarters in the past 12 months has a lot to do with the backlog in cancelled operations from last winter.
"The exceptionally busy and prolonged winter period we had this year meant many planned operations had to be cancelled," she said.
Prof Hart said it been hoped that this backlog would have been cleared by the end of October but despite "significant improvements" over the last six months a small number of specialties are struggling to meet targets.
The chief executive said the trust has now sought "further external support" to see what more can be done.
Prof Hart added that the trust reported a 27 per cent reduction in the number of cases of the hospital infection Clostridium difficile during 2012-13 However, because of this big reduction the trust was set "an extremely challenging" target of no more than 37 cases during the current financial year compared to 49 the previous year.
For the year to date the trust has recorded 30 cases - but Monitor would like to see fewer cases.
Since 2010 the trust has reported eight 'never events', which have been subject to an internal investigation.
Prof Hart told staff: "When a never event occurs, our first step must always be to understand why it happened and seek to learn from it, rather than to apportion unfair blame to an individual, and this is done through greater focus, scrutiny, transparency and accountability."
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