THE TRUST which runs the county’s hospitals has warned its financial position is ‘increasingly serious’ as it looks set to post a
record deficit of almost £28million this year.
Chris Tidman, finance director at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, warned radical action was needed to rebalance the books in the future and redundancies amongst back office staff could not be ruled out, although compulsory job losses
would be a last resort.
“Going forward we may have to consider voluntary redundancies as one option but of course what we need to do is protect the frontline as much as we can so we’ll be looking at those non-frontline services and saying how can they work differently.”
“If we don’t tackle this it does threaten the viability of the Trust going forward so we do have to take action now to avoid that threat.”
A clampdown on the use of agency staff and non-essential spending on equipment, furniture, courses and other items are among the immediate measures being implemented. The Trust will also have to borrow another £5million to £10million to ensure it has enough cash to pay staff and suppliers.
The predicted deficit is almost three times the £9.8million debt the Trust expected to run up during the current financial year which was partly due to deals resulting in more money for teaching and emergency work being phased in over three years.
But the situation has deteriorated due to increased demand through A&E, a rise in delayed discharges – or bed blocking – and the fact the NHS payment system does not fully compensating them for the additional work they are having to carry out.
The Trust has been underfunded by £850,000 this year for its emergency work and has also had to open 70 to 80 additional beds, which coupled with an increasing reliance on locums in some departments has resulted in an expected overspend on temporary staff of about £8million.
Operations have had to be cancelled because surgical beds have been taken by medical patients which cost £300,000 in December alone while delayed discharges are set to cost another £8million.
Commissioners are also set to fine the Trust £3.2million which includes penalties for failing to meet waiting time targets.
WAHT is not alone in suffering financial woes with 80 per cent of hospital trusts set to report a deficit this financial year.
Mr Tidman said it needed to be acknowledged nationally the payment system should be flexed during times of pressure.
“We have to keep patients safe so staffing levels have to go up, unfortunately the tariff level does not recognise that.”