Hospital's finances hinge on bid
A HOSPITAL may be forced into a radical shake-up of services over a £10million debt if it fails to get specialist status, it has emerged.West Suffolk Hospital at Bury St Edmunds, is pinning its hopes on getting foundation trust status, which will soften the financial blow by allowing it to find the shortfall over three years.
A HOSPITAL may be forced into a radical shake-up of services over a £10million debt if it fails to get specialist status, it has emerged.
West Suffolk Hospital at Bury St Edmunds, is pinning its hopes on getting foundation trust status, which will soften the financial blow by allowing it to find the shortfall over three years.
But if the hospital fails in its bid, it faces having to find £10million in just 12 months, said its chief executive Chris Bown.
At West Suffolk Hospital's NHS Trust Board meeting yesterday , members heard the hospital was currently running with a £5.3million deficit.
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Speaking after the meeting, Mr Bown admitted getting foundation status was crucial to the hospital's finances and said the debt would be "in excess of £10million".
"It is a totally different financial regime. Simply, it allows us to recover our deficit over three years as a foundation trust where the NHS financial scheme requires us to recover in one year.
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"That makes all the difference as we can spread it over three years, providing us with a period of financial recovery.
"If we don't get foundation status, it is a different process. We would have to work with other stakeholders, the Strategic Health Authority and others to look at how we might deal with that position and how to balance the books by March '06.
"It would be quite radical change, but we would ensure whatever we changed didn't impact detrimentally on patients."
Board members had heard earlier that cash cutbacks had worked during the first half of the year, but those savings were lost during the outbreak of winter vomiting virus in December, which saw five wards closed to admissions at its height.
And the virus also meant the hospital failed to meet its target of dealing with patients attending accident and emergency within four hours.
Presenting the January 2005 finance report, finance director Linda Potter said the predicted deficit for the year-end had not changed since costs were further cut in November and December.
Experts who will decide whether West Suffolk Hospital gets foundation status visit the site next week.
Non-executive member Colin Hilder said they would be asking some difficult questions on Thursday, including how the board were going to redress the balance.
Roy Bannon, medical director, said the impact of not gaining foundation status would be huge. Dr Bannon said: "This could totally destabilise the whole system."
"We've pretty well got to get our act together for March 3."
Mr Bown told board members: "We have some plans. I believe we can do this."