A HOSPITAL trust chairman says bosses were so worried about money they neglected patient care.

Sir Peter Dixon said problems emerged at Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust when it became too concerned with its finances and failed to react when standards slipped.

Sir Peter was appointed interim chairman by healthcare watchdog Monitor in December, after it sacked chairman Richard Bourne amid concerns about death rates, waiting times and leadership.

Regulators found the trust in significant breach of its foundation status after it missed national targets in accident and emergency and cancer care and reported unacceptably high mortality rates.

Sir Peter said: “It wasn’t a one-off blip that corrected itself. We didn’t react quickly enough when the pressures of the winter before last were causing deterioration in services to patients.

“Eventually the regulator got fed up of listening to excuses. It was at that point they asked me to take over from Richard Bourne.”

Sir Peter has been trust chairman at London’s University College Hospital since 2001, named the UK’s best-performing trust in the annual Dr Foster hospital guide.

It was lauded for a low mortality rate, for meeting targets for treatment and bug screening and meeting patients’ expectations.

He added: “I think the regulator’s focus two or three years ago was very much on money and we have maintained a very, very high rating for our financial targets all the way through.

“It’s only more recently they have started worrying about the other issues to the same extent.

“We have refocused a bit and the absolutely right priority now is first, patient safety, and second, the quality of the outcomes in terms of the treatments we do.

“Third, it’s patient experience, and after that we have to get the finance right.”