£12m debts spark hospital warning

By Ian Dipple Friday 07 February 2014 Updated: 07/02 09:15

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HOSPITAL bosses have warned their current financial situation is unsustainable after revealing they are set to rack up debts of £12million this year.

Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust say a number of factors are behind the poor state of their books including the withdrawal of £13million of income following the loss of a contract dispute with commissioners, rising demand through A&E and delays discharging patients. The Trust was originally only forecasting a £5million debt as a result of the contract decision.

But emergency admissions are currently seven per cent higher than last year which has meant opening more beds and recruiting more staff, particularly expensive temporary doctors. The Trust is also not being fully paid for the extra work it is carrying out because of national rules.

The knock-on effect has led to hundreds of cancelled operations since last April resulting in more than £2million of lost income.

On top of that, commissioners intend to fine the Trust £1million for missing A&E, ambulance handover and waiting time targets. They are also challenging another £2million of payments the Trust is asking for. The situation is also beginning to hit the Trust’s cash flow again.

Discussions are taking place with commissioners and the Trust Development Authority about the possibility of getting additional money to limit the deficit.

But Chris Tidman, the Trust’s director of resources, said one of the main problems was Worcestershire’s health economy generally was underfunded so there was not money available to support the Trust.

He added they needed be more efficient and also work with other organisations to reduce demand through A&E and ensure patients could be discharged effectively, but the hospital reconfiguration was also key.

“Certainly we can’t sustain deficits of £12million going forward. This year we have a cash plan but next year we need to find a resolution to the liquidity problem we have. We can’t withstand numbers of this order and conversations are taking place with the TDA about how they can support the Trust during this transitional phase as we get back to a viable health economy.”

He added: “Plans we have to re-organise how we work over our three hospitals are key to how we are set-up for services but there’s a transition in place before that can happen. What we can’t do is wait for reconfiguration, we have to address the other two issues.”

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