Ipswich: Chief exec speaks of shock at hospital’s finances and warns of tough times ahead

Nick Hulme, Chief Executive of Ipswich Hospital.

Nick Hulme, Chief Executive of Ipswich Hospital. - Credit: Archant

The chief executive of Ipswich Hospital has said the state of the trust’s finances gave him “a bit of a shock” when he took over exactly a year ago – and admitted there were still tough challenges ahead.

However Nick Hulme said that while the hospital faces some difficult times to overturn its deficit, he vowed to not compromise on patient care.

When Mr Hulme picked up the reins last year, he expected to find a well-run hospital delivering a good standard of care.

“What I discovered was the care is better than good,” he added. “But we are not consistent and we still get it wrong.

“In rare cases patients have experiences I wouldn’t want my family to have to go through.

“The finances were significantly worse than I thought which was a bit of a shock but if I was given the choice of the money was worse than the care, that’s what I would prefer.

“It would be more worrying if the care was not of a good quality.”

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Earlier in the year the hospital received £7.5million from NHS England to help rectify its financial position.

Mr Hulme said: “We have some very robust plans going into next year. We have had some additional help this year which is an investment in our future rather than a bailout.

“The money we were given was not a loan. It was additional income to support our position this year.

“Next year we are planning to have a deficit of just over £5m and the year after we are planning a break even budget.

“Although we could have put in a break even budget this year, it would have required us to find more savings, and following discussions with clinicians, I don’t believe we could have achieved that without risk to patient care and I’m not prepared to condone any savings to risk that.

“It’s dependent on delivering a similar level of savings in this financial year and that will be challenging.”

Mr Hulme, who joined the Trust from Barking, Havering and Redbridge Hospitals, he is proud of the hospital’s work in delivering money, quality and access.

He added: “Traditionally Ipswich Hospital has found it difficult to deliver all three at the same time.

“This year we have delivered on our access targets with A&E, diagnostics, cancer and 18 weeks, with a few hiccups but our end position means we are delivering on all of those.

“We are particularly proud of the work we have achieved in A&E because six months ago we were one of the worst performing hospitals across the patch and are now in the top 10 hospitals in the country which is a brilliant turnaround.

“It shows when we concentrate on a specific area where we have a problem, be it quality, money or access, we will deliver without affecting any of the others.”

Mr Hulme, who sees his long-term future in the health service at Ipswich Hospital, said he would like to see continual improvements with regards to the staff survey and is thinking ahead to the hospitals three-year and five-year plans.

He added: “We remain ambitious to become a foundation trust but to do that we need to demonstrate to Monitor that we are a sustainable, both financially and clinically, organisation going forward.

“We have got some exceptional care and a strong leadership team, which is clinically led, and I’m incredibly optimistic about the future.”