Hospital's foundation status bid fails

A DEBT-ridden Suffolk hospital has failed in its bid to secure coveted foundation status – putting it under even more financial pressure.But health chiefs at the West Suffolk Hospital, Bury St Edmunds, insisted it was "business as usual" yesterday despite the "disappointing" news.

A DEBT-ridden Suffolk hospital has failed in its bid to secure coveted foundation status - putting it under even more financial pressure.

But health chiefs at the West Suffolk Hospital, Bury St Edmunds, insisted it was "business as usual" yesterday despite the "disappointing" news.

The hospital is grappling with a £6.8 million debt, and had it secured foundation status it would have been allowed to pay it off over three years.

However, health watchdogs Monitor announced yesterday the hospital's application had failed - meaning it will have to reduce the deficit over the next 12 months.


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Hospital chief executive Chris Bown said: "It is disappointing, although it came as no surprise, we always knew that financially it would be a challenging application and Monitor considered the short term financial risks might give us problems."

He added: "The message I want to reiterate is it's business as usual regardless of our organisational status, we are going to continue to provide the best possible service for the 280,000 people we cater for."

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Mr Bown had previously predicted that there would be radical change required if the bid were turned down, but he said there would be "no knee-jerk reaction" to yesterday's announcement.

He said: "We need to improve the way we do things, but the whole of the NHS is facing radical change and we will continue to provide the high level of service we do, but we will need to look at how we provide that."

West Suffolk MP Richard Spring warned the hospital faced an impossible task in recovering from the "financial black hole" it had found itself in.

He said: "I would like to pay tribute to the work that is done by the wonderful doctors, nurses and ancillary staff at the hospital, but having said that the hospital is in a financial crisis with a £6.8 million deficit apparently getting worse.

"The net result of not getting foundation status is they cannot control their finances in terms of paying back the deficit, which is a statutory obligation.

"It's difficult to see how this financial black hole can be resolved without cuts in services, I can't see a way out, it's a shocking state of affairs."

Gill Robertson, of public services union Unison, said it was a relief that a decision had been reached, because staff had been under pressure while the bid was under way.

She also said she did not think there could be any staff cuts because she considered staff had already been paired down as far as was possible without services becoming unsafe for patients.

A spokesman for Monitor said they felt the hospital "would not be able to stand on its own two feet" because of its debts, which would place considerable pressures on the trust over the next 12 to 18 months.

He added that it was not satisfied that systems in place to improve how it monitored its spending had not been in place long enough to satisfy Monitor they were adequate.

Mr Bown said the hospital trust would be consulting with the Suffolk West Primary Care Trust and the Strategic Health Authority on how to improve the financial situation.

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