Patients are being diverted away from a privately-run treatment centre because the 18-week referral-to-treatment standard is being breached.
The elective treatment centre at the Lister Hospital in Stevenage was opened last year but is not attracting the expected number of patients.
Despite this, the centre - which is run by Clinicenta, owned by Carillion - is failing to meet the 18-week standard and NHS Hertfordshire is having to arrange for some patients to be treated elsewhere.
Three local MPs have also had a meeting with the managers of the centre, after concerns that there were difficulties booking appointments, appointments were being cancelled and patients found it difficult to contact the centre.
A report to NHS Hertfordshire’s board said that there had been some improvement for patients who wanted to contact the centre, but the primary care trust was working with centre management “in relation to a number of outstanding patient experience and quality issues”.
Neither Clinicenta nor NHS Hertfordshire would give details of the numbers of patients attending the centre and how many had breached the 18-week standard. However, a report from the East and North Hertfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group suggests only around half the planned amount of work was being carried out at Clinicenta.
John Webster, director of performance and operations at NHS Hertfordshire, said there had been “some problems with the transfer of services” which meant that “fewer patients have been seen and treated at the Surgicentre than was expected”.
He added: “Clinicenta (the new provider) have acknowledged that the transfer has not gone as smoothly as was hoped and issues have taken much longer to resolve than was anticipated.
“To avoid further delays in delivering treatments, NHS Hertfordshire has been in touch with certain patients to make arrangements for them to receive their treatment elsewhere. We have put this in place as a temporary measure.”
He added that discussions over payment for these patients was ongoing with Clinicenta and the alternative providers.
A Clinicenta spokesperson said the centre had “experienced very high volumes of telephone queries from patients” but additional telephone capacity and staff had been put in place, improving response times.
The spokesperson continued: ”On opening, the Surgicentre became responsible for an existing waiting list of patients. At the same time as starting a complex new service our team have been managing the care of these patients who were already awaiting treatment. Unfortunately this has resulted in some patients waiting over 18 weeks.”
Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland said of the MPs’ meeting with centre managers: “I am pleased it was a very productive meeting and a number of changes have been put in place, which will benefit our constituents.
“We will continue to keep the pressure up to try to ensure that in future all patients receive the top quality care that this facility is capable of and which they deserve.”