Trust spending £2 million more than it can afford, says chief executive

HOSPITAL bosses are spending £2 million each month more than they can afford while at the same time battling to clear long-standing debts.

Darren Grayson, chief executive of East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, which runs the Conquest and the DGH in Eastbourne, warned ‘difficult decisions’ will need to be made in the future in his weekly message to all trust staff.

He blamed part of the problem on both hospitals being exceptionally busy and more staff than expected being off ill.

Mr Grayson said: “To keep within our income we need to spend £30 million a month but we are currently spending approximately £32 million a month. This is clearly unsustainable and can’t continue. Without further action we will finish the year in an unacceptable deficit position. This is a real challenge for us as we have to ensure, of course, that we not only meet our safety and performance targets but also do this within the income we generate.

“Our current position is a result of a combination of issues including operational pressures and higher than average rates of sickness that are driving spend on agency, locum and overtime as well as ongoing premium payments to undertake extra activity.”

The trust is aiming to save £22 million this year and targets having a £2.3 million surplus from April 1 when the new financial year starts. But it currently has a deficit of around £4.5 million.

Margaret Williams, chairman of Hands off the Conquest, said: “It’s unfortunate there has been high demand but this should have been factored in. My worry is that if the trust does not meet its targets for Foundation Trust status it will be taken over by another organisation.”

Mr Grayson said the trust was drawing up plans to ensure patient safety was maintained while at the same time aiming to meet both its performance and financial targets. He added: “The Government and local people quite rightly expect us to live within our means. We have had to make some difficult decisions. For example, all clinical staff should be focusing their time on patient activity to help avoid agency and overtime cost and minimising the time spent on non-patient focused activity, such as restricting study leave, minimising travelling time and reviewing attendance at meetings.”