Norovirus costs county's hospitals

By Ian Dipple Friday 28 December 2012 Updated: 02/01 10:41

REPEATED outbreaks of norovirus have cost the county’s hospitals over half a million pounds and threatens to derail the financial recovery plan of the Trust which runs them.

Some 200 planned operations scheduled at the Alexandra, Worcestershire Royal and Kidderminster hospitals had to be cancelled during November as bosses were forced to shut wards to control the number of patients with the highly infectious sickness and diarrhoea bug.

With the average price of each operation about £2,500, it has cost Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust £500,000 in lost income as well as £300,000 in increased staffing costs and lost efficiency savings.

As a result the Trust is now £2.2million in debt - £800,000 over where bosses thought they would be with just four months of the financial year left.

Chris Tidman, the Trust’s director of resources, said as a result they would have to abandon plans to deliver a £1.5million surplus this year with the aim now just to break even.

"The deficit is just under one per cent of our total budget so it’s something that is disappointing but within the round is a manageable issue," he said.

"November is our engine month, we tend to get through a lot of elective work. Over the next four months we are going to have to catch up. Our expenditure has remained largely stable and would have come down had it not been for norovirus."

The creation of a planned admission unit to reduce the number of cancelled operations and a ban on agency nurses are among the plans to get the Trust back on track.

But how easy the Trust finds it to break even will depend on whether or not it is fined by commissioners as the norovirus outbreak has also affected performance. The four hour A&E waiting target - which stipulates 95 per cent of patients must be seen, treated, admitted or discharged within four hours - was missed in November and is likely not to be met in December. So far this year the Trust has only reached the target 93.59 per cent of the time.

It still has to agree a settlement over the £2.5million the Trust demands it is paid for the increase in emergency admissions – which despite signs demand is falling is still about 12 per cent higher than the same time last year. It could also be fined up to £450,000 for each case above its C Difficile target. So far 60 cases have been reported against a target of 52.

But the Trust has now banked a £12million loan from the Department of Health which will help meet its day to day bills and pay off some of its debts.

Mr Tidman added: "It has sorted out our immediate liquidity issues which gives me a lot more confidence and security going forward."

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