Published: 12/12/2001, Volume II2, No. 5835 Page 7

The Modernisation Agency is to launch an ambitious programme to help hospitals increase productivity and hit waiting-list targets.

The hospital improvement partnership (HIP) will be the flagship programme of the agency's new strategy, which was revealed to HSJ by director David Fillingham (HSJ interview, pages 20-21).

Mr Fillingham also confirmed that strategic health authorities will be given a leading role in delivering modernisation at a local level (news, pages 4-5, 10 October).

The 28 SHAs will receive about£2m each to run local improvement programmes. The programme is expected to receive around£30m of new money.

HIP will be an 'umbrella' programme covering a range of initiatives designed to improve hospital productivity.

However, the centrepiece of HIP will be a diagnostic tool which will help identify bottlenecks impeding the efficient delivery of care within a trust. Funding and resources, such as specialist agency teams which will provide training, support and advice, will then be available to unblock those bottlenecks.

Mr Fillingham said that the approach was based on work undertaken by Kate Sylvester, national redesign director at the agency, which attempts to analyse why bottlenecks occur and how they should be unblocked.

'If You have got a hospital running at 97-98 per cent occupancy, you might not necessarily need new beds, ' explained Mr Fillingham.

'You could be running the hospital so hot that It is becoming dysfunctional and that, as a result, lengths of stay are becoming very inefficient. The diagnostic tool will allow you to see where the problem is, be it radiology, pathology or even, as we discovered in one case, the linen department.'

From January, Ealing Hospital trust, East Sussex Hospitals trust, Central Manchester/Manchester Childrens University Hospitals trust and Nottingham City Hospital trust will pilot HIP.

Mr Fillingham said: 'We want to move quickly to make an impact on targets. I would be amazed if trusts didn't want to get involved. If a trust is struggling with its access targets and doesn't want to go on the programme, somebody is going to be asking why.'

The new modernisation funds will be administered by SHAs 'in conjunction with primary care and acute trusts and on behalf of the local health economy', claimed the agency director.

Each SHA will receive around£2m, but initially the majority will be used to fund staff and resources currently employed by the agency.

The new arrangements will be piloted from January by four authorities - West Yorkshire, North Central London, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, and Surrey and Sussex.