Debt-hit hospital spends £100K on advice
HOSPITAL bosses battling against a multi-million pound debt problem have forked out £100,000 on financial planning advice.As plans to shed between 28 and 33 more beds in the coming year were revealed to staff at West Suffolk Hospital NHS Trust, it also emerged that the trust currently had no strategy to rid itself of its historic debt.
HOSPITAL bosses battling against a multi-million pound debt problem have forked out £100,000 on financial planning advice.
As plans to shed between 28 and 33 more beds in the coming year were revealed to staff at West Suffolk Hospital NHS Trust, it also emerged that the trust currently had no strategy to rid itself of its historic debt.
The Bury St Edmunds-based trust currently faces two major challenges.
First its £2.4m savings plan for the rest of the year falls £1.27m short of the amount needed to break even.
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Secondly, the trust has £12m of old debt that is owed to the Department of Health and which must be paid back by March 2008.
Last year the trust announced it was closing 50 beds and shedding 260 posts - 100 of which will be axed by the end of March next year.
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The trust's chief executive Chris Bown yesterday unveiled his recovery plan which, although falling £1.27m short of breaking even, would save £2.4m in the rest of the financial year.
They include closing a ward - or between 28 and 33 beds - not replacing some staff and shortening hospital stays for patients.
And the chief executive yesterday admitted he had no plans to wipe off the £12m debt by March 2008.
Mr Bown said savings outlined in the plan were based on current estimates and warned that still more cost cuts might be needed if the financial situation worsened during the coming months.
He added that by the end of June new ideas had to be found to bridge the £1.27m budget gap.
Mr Bown said the £100,000 spent on external financial advice would be “money well spent” if the trust was balancing its books by the end of the financial year.
He said: “We have a very small finance department and we needed this level of financial support. We do need that extra help. It will be money well spent if we get back into recurrent balance.”
Mr Bown admitted the plans would cause concern among staff but added: “The savings plan represents an enormous challenge for all trust staff, particularly following the achievement of significant savings of £11m over the last two years for which the staff should be congratulated.”
Unison regional officer Yvonne Cleary described the £1.27m shortfall on top of the £12m of historic debt as “devastating” but welcomed Mr Bown's recognition of the efforts of staff and the absence of any further job cuts from yesterday's announcement.
She said: “Staff at West Suffolk Hospital have stayed in their jobs, due to loyalty to the NHS and to the people of Suffolk, now they expect some of that loyalty back when times are hard.”