King’s Mill Hospital cash crisis deepens

Bosses at the trust that runs King’s Mill Hospital have admitted that ‘significant ongoing financial support’ will be needed from the Government in order to help it meet its massive PFI debt.

This 30-plus year ‘mortgage’, which paid for the new hospital building, cost Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust more than £40m in the last financial year alone.

It is one of several concerns that is contributing to the trust’s desperate financial position, which was revealed to its Council of Governors in a report presented at a meeting last month.

The report reveals that at the end of the last financial year, the trust had a deficit of just over £15m - but this would have been as high as £23m without one-off income and benefits.

It is also stated that the trust continues to spend ‘significantly more’ on pay than it did a year ago, in part due to increased agency usage, and that it is failing to meet the savings targets in its cost improvement programme.

Fran Steele, Chief Financial Officer at the trust, said: “The Trust faces an extremely challenging financial situation.

“However, we have already begun to improve our efficiency and with the support of our commissioners, we have been able to postpone until quarter four of the financial year 2013/14, the point at which we require cash support.

“We will be submitting a three-year turnaround plan to Monitor (the hopstial trust watchdog). It is our view that an essential part of this will be the recognition that significant ongoing financial support will be required from Government to address the exceptional burden of our PFI cost, which in 2012/13 amounted to over £40million – almost 16 per cent of our turnover.”

According to the finance report, the trust has enough cash to meet its obligations until quarter four of this financial year, but will then need the Department of Health to step in.

It also is paying more for staff than it was a year ago, with pay costs in April 2013, £0.13m more than in April 2012.

Though some of this relates to a new facility opened in Newark, expensive agency staff have also added to the bill and plans to reduce this have been made.

The trust is still identifying areas where efficiencies can be found and needs to find a further £1.8m of savings in order to meet its £13.3m cost improvement programme target.

Craig Day, lead governor, said that the Council of Governors is trying to hold the trust to account for not delivering on its plan.

He said that increased spending on staff had in part come from increased demand on services, with more wards being opened during the winter as more patients came through the Emergency Department doors.

Lessons are now being learned about how to plan more effectively and budget for such an occurrence, but Craig said there is a risk of redundancies at King’s Mill in order to curb costs.

The number of patients electing to have operations at King’s Mill is also ‘notably’ down - a trend that needs reversing to boost income.

“The Council of Governors is wanting to streamline back office staff in order to meet with the future demands on bed spaces,” Craig said.

“I don’t think reducing beds is the best way to go about it.

“I would like [the hospital] to extend their reach over the borders and actually encourage patients to make a positive choice back towards the hospital.”