Conquest slips further into financial strife

THE trust that runs the Conquest Hospital is reviewing its use of its bank and agency staff in a bid to cut costs after it emerged that its planned deficit already has a £5.1million shortfall.

In June the Observer published the fact that East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust faced a staggering deficit of £19.4 million this year, as it came to light other hospitals across the country faced similar problems.

It was also explained at the time it would not be receiving £16 million of support for the financial year that it had previously received in 2011/12.

At the latest trust board meeting last week, Vanessa Harris, the trust’s director of finance, said its planned deficit was £1.7 million for August but in fact the figure was £3.5 million, making a shortfall of £1.8 million for that month.

And since the financial year started in April its deficit is now £13.7 million against a planned £8.6 million, resulting in a shortfall so far of £5.1 million.

She said: “August was not a good month. We were down on income. That was down to elective operations and in addition we had some significant costs in August regarding agency and ad-hoc payments.”

She said it was probable more temporary cash would be needed in October and said that the financial situation was being reviewed on a weekly basis, adding: “We need to look at the way we use our temporary work force. When we use agency staff there’s a large premium to pay and we need to try to avoid that.”

The trust’s chief executive Darren Grayson said £2.6 million of the £5.1 million had gone on penalties and fines but added the situation was recoverable, although it would not be easy.

He added: “There are people in the local community who will use the financial position we’re in to criticise us and to seek to undermine confidence in the organisation and the board.”