Trust is owed more than £180K in overpayments made to hospital staff

A CASH-STRAPPED hospital trust is owed more than £180,000 in overpayments to staff it has been revealed.

East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust (ESHT), which runs both the Conquest on The Ridge and Eastbourne DGH, said the overpayments affected around 200 staff.

This included waged paid to staff after they left the trust’s employment.

An investigation and Freedom of Information request by the BBC last week also revealed that the four neighbouring NHS trusts in Kent were owed nearly £3 million in total, as more than 2,000 doctors and nurses had been overpaid since 2007.

The latest news comes amid the hospital trust’s continuing battle to stem its debts.

Last month the Observer reported on how ESHT had managed to finally balance its books, but only after a £16.1 million handout from the local Primary Care Trust (PCT).

The organisation was hoping to start the new financial year on April 1 with an extra £2.8 million in its coffers.

But because of increased numbers of patients going through the doors at both the Conquest and DGH over the last 12 months, ESHT only managed to break even.

Both hospitals saw a 1.5 per cent rise in the number of patients, compared to the period from March 2011 to March last year.

It was reported at last month’s trust board meeting that ESHT had overspent on agency costs, which stood at £8.3 million, as well as on specialist high cost drugs for patients.

And in March last year health bosses received a £14 million bail-out to help clear mammoth debts accrued over the previous 12 months.

East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust was forced to go cap in hand to the PCT and ask for the cash.

Simon Purkiss, the trust’s spokesman, said: “At East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust overpayment of staff currently stands at £186,164 consisting of about 200 items.

“The overpayment amount represents 0.072 per cent of the total pay bill for the trust. We employ more than 7,200 staff and predominately overpayment of staff occurs when the payroll system is not updated following a member of staff leaving the organisation.

“We actively seek to reclaim all overpayments. When necessary we will pursue through a debt collection agency.”