By Ian Dipple Friday 28 September 2012 Updated: 28/09 09:51
A FREEZE on recruiting non-medical staff and cutting the use of expensive agency doctors and nurses are part of a financial rescue plan devised by hospital bosses as they battle to balance the books.
Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust plunged further into the red during August with the deficit so far this year standing at £3.7million. A continuing surge in demand in emergency admissions and delays in implementing efficiency savings are part of the problem. But the Trust is also missing out on money from commissioners because more emergency patients than agreed have been seen this year, resulting in them being paid just 30 per cent of what they would normally receive.
A financial recovery plan has been put together to put the Trust's finances back on track by the end of the financial year. It includes a recruitment freeze on non-clinical staff, replacing expensive agency doctors with locums and encouraging existing staff to take on extra shifts instead of bringing in agency nurses.
Measures are also being put in place to step up efficiency savings to deliver at least £12.6million of the required £15million instead of the £10million projected currently.
Talks are ongoing with NHS Worcestershire about additional payments while a plan is drawn up to ease the pressure on the county's A&E departments.
Chris Tidman, the Trust's finance director, said: "The real challenge for us now as a minimum is getting back to a break even position by the end of the financial year, but we need things to change in terms of the pressure our services are under," he said.
An added problem for the Trust is a decision by the Government on granting a loan of £21million to shore up its finances has been delayed until December. If it is not approved other sources of funding will be needed otherwise the Trust cannot deal with its £18.3million historic debt which is hitting its cashflow and making it difficult to pay the day-to-day bills on time.
It will also impact on the Trust's ability to gain approval to become a Foundation Trust, although Mr Tidman said as part of the process there were opportunities to have it converted into a non-repayable loan where only interest payments are made, or written off completely.
"At the time of becoming a Foundation Trust if we can prove we are high performing, in terms of quality of care and finance, then we can ask for that debt to be addressed," he said.
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