Hospital to sell off land assets

By James MortlockHOSPITAL bosses are planning to sell assets worth million of pounds to help pay off debts of almost £700,000.A board meeting of the West Suffolk Hospitals Trust has been told land and former health centres will be sold as part of a continuing programme of asset sales to help ease its current financial situation.

By James Mortlock

HOSPITAL bosses are planning to sell assets worth million of pounds to help pay off debts of almost £700,000.

A board meeting of the West Suffolk Hospitals Trust has been told land and former health centres will be sold as part of a continuing programme of asset sales to help ease its current financial situation.

Land in Sudbury, which had been earmarked for the town's new hospital, but has since been rejected in favour of another site, will be one of the first assets to go.

Both the St Leonard's and Walnuttree Hospitals in Sudbury – which are to be replaced by the new multi-million-pound scheme, given the green light by regional health bosses only weeks ago – will also eventually be sold.

The announcement of the ongoing programme of asset sales came as bosses at the trust, which is based at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds, revealed although they had been able to reduce the rate of growth of their overspend, a £689,000 deficit remained at the end of August.

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Jessica Watts, director of strategy, said a plan to generate further savings had been submitted and added: "Robust performance monitoring of spend against budget will be put in place to ensure the proposed savings are achieved.

"Key budget holders will be monitored with incentives for good performance and restrictions to counteract poor performance."

She also reported the trust was still failing to meet some key targets, particularly in outpatient waiting lists.

But Ms Watts stressed progress had been made against some targets with both the accident and emergency department and cancer waiting times met for the first time in August.

"Whilst recognising these achievements, it is important that they can be sustained for the rest of the year," she said.

However, her report to the board said bed-blocking – where patients no longer need hospital treatment, but who cannot be discharged as there is no care arrangements in place for them – and emergency admissions were increasing.

She added the trust's sickness absence rate was causing concern with a rise to 5% in August, compared to 4.8% in July.

West Suffolk Hospital was stripped last year of its three-star status as a top-performing hospital and downgraded to one star.

That was because it had a budget deficit of almost £1million, had cancelled too many operations and had failed to see the required number of patients suspected to have cancer within two weeks.

But it regained the coveted three stars earlier this year and a spokesman said it was important for the trust to maintain standards and added he had no doubt the targets would be met and the deficit cut by the end of the financial year.

"Every year trusts have to make cash-releasing efficiency savings – it's a continuous process and the worst-case scenario is always set out at this stage. They are saying that if we don't do certain things, this will be where we end up," said the spokesman.

"If you look at the figures, this time last year they were probably the same or very similar, but by the end of the year the targets had been met and we had got back our three-star status.

"We were very successful last year and hit all our targets. Everyone is working very hard to make sure we do the same this year."

He added St Leonard's Hospital would come on the market when the services provided there were transferred to Walnuttree Hospital this autumn.

The value of the land that had been earmarked for the hospital, coupled with the two hospital sites, would run into "millions of pounds", he added.

james.mortlock@eadt.co.uk

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