Trust in danger of financial crisis

By Ian Dipple Friday 06 September 2013 Updated: 06/09 10:54

THE TRUST which runs the Alexandra Hospital is facing a financial crisis after revealing it is in danger of running up a £12million deficit.

A £7million financial recovery plan has been launched by bosses at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust including clamping down on spending on agency staff and not filling non-clinical posts unrelated to frontline services.

The Trust had already expected it would end the current financial year £5million in the red as a result of losing a contractual dispute with its commissioners, resulting in the withdrawal of £10million of transitional funding and the end of a £2.6million agreement to keep paediatric and maternity services at both the Alex and Worcestershire Royal.

But the situation has worsened as a result of a number of factors including the continued increased number of emergency admissions and delays in moving patients out of hospital, meaning beds are unavailable for planned surgery costing the Trust about £1million in lost income. The Trust is also spending £2.5million a year on keeping the equivalent of 2.5 wards open which they are not being paid for but cannot close because of demand.

Since last April the equivalent of 100 full-time additional nurses have been recruited to avoid the need to spend on expensive agency staff but the plan has so far failed while spending on agency and locum doctors has also risen, particularly in A&E and emergency medicine. The Trust plans to roster shifts more effectively including spreading annual leave across the year more evenly, make more use of zero hours contracts and recruit more senior doctors to reduce costs with two recently brought in from Spain and two from India.

The number of births is also lower than expected with about 485 a month being delivered on average, compared to the monthly average of 529 in the previous year, while there are also concerns the Trust will miss its efficiency savings target.

The Trust currently has a deficit of £6.5million - £1.9million more than planned. It is already carrying an historic deficit of about £18million from overspending during the early part of the 21st century, but has either broke even or delivered a surplus since 2007.

Chris Tidman, director of resources, said a £12million debt would be the result if they did nothing.

"It's going to be a challenge but I'm confident we will address it and put the measures in place."

Harry Turner, Trust chairman, rejected the idea the Trust was a 'basket case' financially and insisted they would bring the books under control.

"What is important to realise is that the financial pressures the NHS faces is across the country and not just for this Trust," he said.

"We are talking about a few million not tens of millions like others. We are going to fix this."

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