Health trust is given £14million bail-out

Conquest Hospital
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HEALTH bosses have received a £14 million bail-out to help clear mammoth debts accrued over the last 12 months.

East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs the Conquest Hospital on The Ridge, was forced to go cap in hand to the local Primary Care Trust (PCT) and ask for the cash.

From April 1 last year the trust had to find £30 million in savings but had only achieved around £16 million up to last week.

The figures were revealed at a trust board meeting on Wednesday.

The organisation, which also runs Eastbourne’s DGH, has been trying to clear massive debts.

Recently the trust came under fire after it was revealed that it spent more than £4 million on outside consultants between December 2010 and November last year.

This was largely in part to the financial experts, Ernst and Young, to help the trust find ways of saving money.

Around £159,000 from this total went towards on-the-job expenses for the consultants.

The NHS trust also spent £1.4 million on locum doctors since April 1 last year, when the current financial year started. One 24-hour shift by a locum cost £1,983 but trust bosses were unable to confirm whether it was at the Conquest or the DGH.

Margaret Williams, chairman of Hands off the Conquest, said: “The trust has already had Ernst and Young in to tell it how to run its finances and this latest news does not bode well for the management itself.

“Managers cannot keep being bailed out and they must get their finances in order.”

The money from the PCT, which holds the purse strings for hospital trusts to run their services, is a one-off transitional support payment and means hospital bosses start the new financial year with no debt.

It also includes an additional £1.7 million to help the trust deal with extra patient demand. With the savings it has made, together with the money from the PCT, this amounts to that figure, meaning the organisation has broken even.

However, David Meikle, the trust’s director of finance and performance, said the organisation needed to find £22 million in savings over the next 12 months and was aiming to end the financial year in March 2013 with a £2.8 million surplus.

He outlined the trust’s business plan for the coming year.

In it includes a proposed reduction in beds across both the Conquest and Eastbourne DGH by 46.

In a recent message to all staff at the trust, chief executive Darren Grayson said: “It is an economically challenging time for the country and the NHS in general. As with everyone’s personal budget you have to live within your own means and this organisation is no different.

“Next year we need to achieve all our objectives with less money than this current year.

“We need to become more efficient and productive as we are committed to delivering an overall surplus of £2.8 million.”

At Wednesday’s board meeting, Mr Grayson said both the Conquest and DGH had seen increased demand for their services, particularly with emergency admissions.