Hospital finances in ill health

HOSPITAL chiefs have admitted they will have to reduce their £3.5 million deficit to achieve foundation trust status next year.West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds is eligible to apply for foundation status, but trust board members have been told measures need to be taken to cut the deficit if it is to successfully apply.

HOSPITAL chiefs have admitted they will have to reduce their £3.5 million deficit to achieve foundation trust status next year.

West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds is eligible to apply for foundation status, but trust board members have been told measures need to be taken to cut the deficit if it is to successfully apply.

Speaking at a trust meeting yesterdaychief executive John Parkes said extra money next year would be spent on underpinning current financial problems in a bid to secure foundation status in October.

Mr Parkes said: "For our foundation status bid to be successful, we need to achieve a financial balance and retain three star status, which is a key milestone."


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Trust chairman Veronica Worrall used the board meeting to apologise to recent patients of the overrun hospital.

She said: "As a hospital we are currently full and there are no spare beds at any point in time. Patients here are finding it noisier and they are not getting the attention they would like.

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"Operations have been cancelled because we are full but we do apologise and we are doing everything we can to ensure cancellations are at an absolute minimum."

As a foundation hospital the West Suffolk can become an independent not-for-profit organisations and be able to borrow money on the private market. It will mean greater control over its own affairs and patients will be able to elect and stand for election to a new board of governors, which will oversee the running of foundation trusts.

The government believes foundation hospitals will improve NHS standards but critics say they will create a two-tier NHS.

Director of strategy Jessica Watts said: "Obviously the financial position has a baring on us achieving foundation status and our three star status but we are planning to achieve financial balance.

"We can assure everyone patient care is our top priority and this is one of the reasons why we have ended up in this financial problems."

A ten-week period of consultation with staff, patients, the public and stakeholders will begin in February.

Meanwhile, Ipswich Primary Care Trust is facing a deficit of about £3m at the end of the financial year, they have revealed.

Board members meet on Wednesdayto discuss the overspend and listen to plans to restore financial balance by 2005/06. Short-term savings are expected to reduce the deficit to at least £1.4m, against a budget of £137 million.

"Much of the deficit was inherited by the primary care trust and we have been working hard to meet targets," said a spokeswoman for the trust.

"Achieving financial balance is very important to us and we have put together a very clear action plan to try and address this problem, but patient care is our top priority.

"Demand for health care is rising and we are treating more people more quickly, so costs have risen."

The number of bed-blockers, or delayed transfers of care, had also risen to 54 by the end of October, against a target of 15.

"We need to make sure those people who need a transfer of care have the right package of care to suit their individual needs. It's a complex process," added the spokeswoman.

The region's hospitals reported a steady stream of patients needing treatment yesterday.

Ipswich Hospital was "busy but coping very well" with no reported state of alert. West Suffolk Hospital, reported a healthy state of green alert – the lowest level.

Essex Rivers Healthcare Trust, which covers Colchester General Hospital, was on B alert yesterday – the highest is D.

A spokeswoman for the James Paget Healthcare Trust, Gorleston said the hospital had been on red alert a number of times this week.

"There has been enormous pressure on beds and emergency admissions have shot up," she said.

"There is no one particular reason for this, it's a whole range of things. At this time of year there are a lot of respiratory problems about."

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