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By Ian Dipple Friday 28 March 2014 Updated: 28/03 09:02
THE HEAD of the county’s hospitals has pledged care will not be cut if they lose a multi-million contract dispute with commissioners.
Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust and Worcestershire’s three clinical commissioning groups have again failed to reach a contract agreement for the next financial year and instead have sought an outside ruling - or arbitration - from NHS England and the Trust Development Authority.
The dispute revolves around £19.4million of payments including £9million linked to schemes which will reduce demand through hospitals the Trust is querying.
There is also the question of the extra £2.5million to keep paediatric and maternity services at both the Alex and Worcestershire Royal and the timing of payments for some services commissioners have not previously had to pay for.
A similar situation occurred last year which led to the Trust losing £13million of transitional support funding and is largely to blame for them posting a deficit of £12million at the end of this financial year.
As a result the Trust will have debts of some £30million by the start of April and director of resources Chris Tidman has already warned they cannot withstand huge deficits year on year.
The Trust has had to apply for a temporary loan of £11.5million to the Department of Health to ensure it can pay its bills on time as without action it will run out of cash in the bank by June this year. The TDA has also declared a ‘material issue’ with the Trust, one step down from formal intervention being required.
Chief executive Penny Venables said the main issue in dispute was payments for emergency admissions but she insisted whatever the outcome of the arbitration they would protect the service to patients.
“We would never cut the care, the reason why we are in difficulty at year end is because of the additional beds, doctors and nurses we have put in to maintain patient safety and care,” she said.
Part of the problem is the commissioners themselves are struggling to afford the rising levels of demand as well as increase investment in community services to keep people out of hospital, at a time when their funding is remaining broadly flat.
Mr Tidman said regardless of who ended up with the deficit following arbitration, commissioners and the Trust needed to work together to produce a three year financial recovery plan to eradicate it, which was linked to dealing with the rising demand.
“Hospitals are expensive places and should really only be for the sickest patients,” he said.
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