Harsh winter could cause £9.5m debt for hospital trust

By Ian Dipple Friday 06 December 2013 Updated: 06/12 11:24

A SEVERE winter and potential fines for a number of missed targets could see the Trust which runs the Alexandra Hospital run up a debt of £9.5million.

Bosses at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust were planning to end the year £5million in the red after losing some £13million of income following the loss of a contract dispute with commissioners.

But despite cutting costs in some areas the continued level of demand through A&E departments, the complexity of the treatment required and difficulties discharging patients effectively has tied up beds, hitting their ability to earn money with income from planned operations down £1.8million. The Trust has also had to spend more on temporary medical agency staff because of the rise in emergency demand and to fill long-term vacancies in some specialities which are linked to the reconfiguration of hospital services.

They have also received £1million less than expected through paediatric admissions.

On top of that because emergency activity is already higher than contracted levels - admissions are up 6.9 per cent on 11/12 - and in line with national rules the Trust is only being fully reimbursed at 65 per cent or 30 per cent. It means so far this year the Trust has carried out £3.3million of work above what it is contracted to do but has only been paid £1.95million.

Chris Tidman, director of resources, warned with the amount of capacity needed to ensure the Trust could cope with demand over winter it was unlikely they would hit the £5million deficit target.

"On both sides of the coin, income and costs, we are getting pressure," he said.

"It's a very challenging position but everybody from the clinical staff to the operational staff are striving to get the position back to plan by the end of the year."

The £9.5million figure could rise further as the Trust is at risk of being fined over £1million by commissioners for missing targets related to ambulance handover times, while an inability to perform planned operations, combined with an increase in referrals means the Trust is unlikely to meet the 18 week waiting target until next April at the earliest.

Chief executive Penny Venables said while commissioners had not specifically indicated they would reinvest any fines to benefit patients, they had been given assurances they would stand "shoulder to shoulder" with them.

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