LETTER: How can Pilgrim Hospital compete?

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Your letters, emails and opinions - Boston Standard, Lincolnshire: bostonstandard.co.uk, on Twitter @standardboston

Alison Austin, who was elected to Lincolnshire County Council, in one of her campaign leaflets wrote that she would ‘seek more funding of health in Boston - Pilgrim Hospital one of the worst funded in the country’.

As Coun Austin stood in my ward I asked her what evidence there is to back her statement? Richard Austin replied to my email giving evidence (with permission) from a former chairman of United Lincolnshire Hospital Trust (ULHT) David Bowles’ draft blog.

The issues that I would like Mark Simmonds MP and Lincolnshire County Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee to address (both have given initial replies to my letters) are related to the Government’s ‘Payment by Results and the Market Forces Factor’ policy.

This is that the NHS should be run as a market, giving patients more choice both within and outside the NHS. Unlike say, Boston market, where once stall holders have permission to have a presence there, they run a real market with customers deciding whether to buy goods or not, the ‘market’ dealing with the NHS has a national working group to decide the price of for example, hip replacements.

Like many others, I had this done at Pilgrim and both the surgery and aftercare have been very good.

The amount that hospitals can ‘charge’ for each hip replacement is decided by something called the ‘Market Forces Factor’ (MFF). MFF takes into account ‘land values’, presumably related to the cost of housing locally.

If only it were ‘agricultural land values’ then even now, Pilgrim Hospital would greatly benefit. Another factor is ‘local wage levels’.

Local politicians would accept that Boston is a low wage area, so if this is used then no wonder our local hospital is so unfairly disadvantaged in attracting funding for staff, although recently ULHT under the chairmanship of Paul Richardson has managed to attract extra consultants to the Pilgrim.

Property is cheap in Boston, but the catch is that for high achieving NHS staff it is likely to become a problem if they wish to gain promotion or more experience because the difference in prices between Boston and the rest of the country makes it so difficult to sell your home and buy a similar property elsewhere.

They are less likely to come here in the first place if they are going to feel trapped.

Both the Labour government and the coalition say they want to give patients more choice; eg if Pilgrim has too long a waiting list for an operation one can go elsewhere.

This aspect of the ‘market’ I think most people support but not this artificial ‘market’ which does not seem to be in any patient’s interest!

According to David Bowles, of the 253 NHS Trusts in England, 245 are allowed to charge more than ULHT.

If he is correct, how can a rural county like Lincolnshire and a borough like Boston with its popular Pilgrim Hospital, compete in the ‘new’ NHS ‘market’?

I asked Mark Simmonds MP to request the Department of Health or, if they reply it is no longer their direct responsibility, the National Commissioning Council, to explain how Pilgrim Hospital can compete in a system that seems mainly to benefit large urban NHS trusts and hospitals.

Peter Dorr

Linley Drive, Boston