Published: 10/01/2001, Volume 112, No. 5787 Page 4

The Department of Health is conducting a review of the six trusts which were given three months to improve their performance last September to see whether they are resolving their problems, and will announce within the next few weeks whether any more chief executives are to face the axe.

Most of the trusts given no stars in the national performance ratings claim to have made considerable improvements and expect two or three stars when their performance is re-assessed.

Exceptions include Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals trust, which expects to fall up to 35 per cent short of the target to reduce 13week waits for outpatient appointments. But the trust said the position was 'continuing to improve'. It was confident of meeting the 26-week outpatient targets and achieving financial balance by the end of March. Just 1.7 per cent ofoperations were being cancelled, compared to 4.5 per cent when the hospital was given no-stars.

Medway Hospitals trust said present performance would deserve a two or three-star rating. 'We have achieved all targets and will break even by the 2001-02 financial year.'

Brighton Healthcare trust is now meeting three targets in areas in which it was failing. 'On 13-week waits, we have not yet reached 100 per cent but are within tolerance, ' a spokesperson said.

Dartford and Gravesham trust said the number of outpatients waiting more than 13 weeks fell from 2,096 to 764 in the last 12 months. The trust said it was 'well on target' to surpass the 747 milestone set for March.

Ashford and St Peter's Hospitals trust chief executive Andrew Morris said: 'We will hit inpatient waiting-list targets, two-week breast cancer referrals and are OK on cancellations. Our biggest problem has been trolley waits but we have introduced a series of measures which will bring improvements.'

University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire trust chief executive David Loughton has faced intense pressure following a damning Commission for Health Improvement report, the publication of its zero-star rating, and the highest death rates in the country for heart bypass operations.

But a spokesperson said: 'If it wasn't for the CHI report, which came out around the same time, we would have been given two stars.'

At Epsom and St Helier Hospital, chief executive John de Braux was confident the trust would achieve two-star status following its highly critical CHI report last summer.

He said: 'We are progressing quite well. . . and getting a lot of support from the Modernisation Agency.'