Financial weakness blamed for poor PCT performance

Financial weakness is still the main reason for poor PCT performance, according to the 2007 Healthcare Commission’s review of the NHS.

In the second annual NHS '‘health check' published today, the watchdog found that of the 104 worst-performing NHS trusts and PCTs in England, 95 had a very poor financial situation. 29 per cent of PCTs’ use of resources was scored ‘weak’.

Overall in 2007, 3 per cent of PCTs were rated excellent (0 per cent in 2006), 16 per cent good (8 per cent), 51 per cent fair (51 per cent), and 29 per cent weak (41 per cent).

Andy McKeon, managing director for health at the Audit Commission, which reviewed the finances of all non-foundation trusts, said: 'There has been an improvement overall. Some are on the road to recovery; some are at the other end of spectrum.'

The 72 recently merged PCTs performed the least well. Re-organisation of resources was blamed for the poor performance but Healthcare Commission chairman Professor Sir Ian Kennedy hoped the merged trusts would benefit from economy of scale in the long term.

‘Only this year are we setting a benchmark for these new PCTs for the future. We would expect them to move towards the better end of the graph as soon as possible,’ he said.

South West and South East Coast SHAs were highlighted as the worst performing regions, while the North East and Midlands were praised.

Gary Needle, head of the annual review, said there was a ‘hardcore’ of trusts with serious financial standing and management problems.

Only two PCTs achieved ‘excellent’ scores for quality of services, and around three-quarters of PCTs received a score of ‘fair’ or ‘weak’ in this area. Over half of all PCTs were described as ‘fair’ or ‘weak’ overall.

Healthcare Commission chief executive Anna Walker said: ‘Fair means adequate, and adequate is not good enough for a world class system. The challenge is seeing more NHS trusts moving from fair to good.’

Mrs Walker defended PCT performance, saying that the assessment was more difficult for PCTs. ‘It’s actually a very challenging agenda. PCTs have targets on healthcare for the whole of the population, things like smoking cessation and heart disease. They are very tough targets, and targets which really matter to patients.’

Describing the performance of NHS trusts overall, Sir Kennedy said ‘There is an overall trend towards improvement, but some are getting a bit stuck at the bottom end of the scale.’

Click here to view the Healthcare Commission report.

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