Monitor has opened an investigation into Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust after an independent audit identified problems with the way it analyses the cost of the services it provides to patients.
Monitor wants to work with the trust to ensure it is following national guidance in the accurate use of cost data. Amongst other things, this will enable the trust to deliver its services more efficiently in line with the Carter programme.
The trust provides acute and general services to patients across south Essex. An independent audit in 2015 indicated that the trust was calculating its costs using national averages instead of using its own data. The trust had agreed an action plan with the auditors to rectify this. However, Monitor recently found that little progress has been made on that plan, and has decided to investigate.
Toby Lambert, Pricing Director at Monitor, said:
Providers should be using accurate information to make day-to-day management and operational decisions about the service they provide to patients.
Good quality cost and activity information should be crucial to day-to-day decision-making by healthcare providers. It also helps us set national prices in a way that delivers the highest amount of care for the money spent.
Last year, as part of its reference cost assurance programme, Monitor commissioned audits of 2013/14 reference cost submissions made by 75 acute trusts. Around half of the trusts audited were found to have significant problems with the information they submitted. Following the audits, providers were asked to develop action plans to address the recommendations made by the auditors. Monitor expects providers’ Audit Committees to oversee the implementation of the action plans.
No decision has been made yet on whether Monitor will take further regulatory action. Monitor will announce the outcome of its investigation in due course.