Hospital may have to sell assets

By Liz HearnshawHEALTH bosses are to examine ways of raising cash and slashing expenditure to avoid another multi-million-pound budget shortfall that could tarnish their hospital's bid for foundation status.

By Liz Hearnshaw

HEALTH bosses are to examine ways of raising cash and slashing expenditure to avoid another multi-million-pound budget shortfall that could tarnish their hospital's bid for foundation status.

The books at the West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds must balance if it is to stand a chance of gaining foundation status and get more independence from the Government.

Now department heads at the hospital have been urged to examine their expenditure and search for opportunities for income generation to ensure it is not hit by another huge budget shortfall.


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A £4.4million overspend was projected for the end of the 2003/2004 financial year, but extra funding and technical adjustments reduced that figure to £900,000.

But officials have warned the hospital's income, provided largely by the Suffolk West Primary Care Trust (PCT), will not stretch to cover planned spending for the next 12 months.

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An official document, entitled Team Briefing, May 2004 - which summarises decisions taken by the hospital's board - said: “Discussions with the Suffolk West PCT around the Local Delivery Plan for 2004/05 suggest that the trust's income from the PCT will not cover its planned spend.

“Faced with a significant budget deficit, each directorate was asked to rigorously review its proposed budget, to look at changes in the delivery of services, identify savings and the consequences of such savings and opportunities for income generation.

“All the recommendations, which include investment in some areas and changes to the way we work, will now go before the trust board for approval.”

But union officials fear any cutbacks could affect staff. Graham Kendall, Unison branch secretary at the hospital, said: “Our main concern is that if they are pulling their belts in, what does this entail and how will it affect out members? Obviously, we do not want to be doing more work for no more pay.”

Patients' groups have vowed to monitor any changes closely, while liasing with both users of the hospital and the public to gain their feedback.

Liz Earley, support officer with the hospital's Patient and Public Involvement Forum, said: “The West Suffolk Hospital Patient and Public Involvement Forum will be both monitoring any changes in services and any impacts of such changes closely.

“It will be actively engaging with patients of the hospital and the general public in order to ascertain their thoughts, feelings and ambitions for the hospital.”

A spokesman for the hospital said no firm decisions had yet been made on how to generate income for the coming year.

He added there were no plans to begin treating private patients, but admitted it was possible assets may be sold to raise extra cash.

“In the past, the trust used to own flats in Bury which were made available to staff. Certainly the sale of assets such as that could be part of the income generation. To achieve foundation hospital status, the trust must balance its books,” said the spokesman.

The hospital is expected to learn the outcome of its foundation status bid next month.

liz.hearnshaw@eadt.co.uk

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