This blog can usually find a 'comical' angle on most stories. But not on what has just happened to Powys people on the waiting list for treatment at the Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital in Gobowen, Shropshire. I had a call last Friday to tell me that the Hospital was stopping any further treatment of Powys patients until the next financial year. This bombshell finally made it to the Welsh media yesterday - despite my telling them last Friday.
There is history behind this. Last year the Hospital treated a lot of 'Powys'patients, for which it was not paid. An 'arbitration' judgement decided that since the commissioning body, Powys Local Health Board had not asked for any treatments beyond the agreed contract sum, they need not be paid for. Immediately the arbitration decision was known, the Chief Executive of the LHB, Andy Williams put out a 'gloating' press statement which I suspect caused real resentment at the Hospital end. At the time, I thought that press statement was crass.
Anyway, the upshot of last year's row was that the LHB took over the waiting list which involves sending patients for treatment rather than the Hospital calling them in when it has spare capacity - this system to operate up to an agreed contract sum of £2.6 million. The best way to manage the system would be for the 'rate of flow' to allow for patients being referred over a 12 month period - but the Hospital tell me that the money has been used up already. Thus the treatment drawbridge being drawn up last Friday. I understand that the LHB dispute the figures.
This is a utterly disgraceful position. The people of Powys will lose faith in the NHS completely. People in agony will be left in the dark about what is going to happen to them. As I type this post I understand discussions are going on at senior executive level between the Orthopaedic Hospital and the LHB. I hope they can sort something out before Xmas because the current position is too awful for any words I can post, to do justice to. I will post an update as soon as I have one.