Hospital trust debts exceed predictions by more than £3m

Bexhil Railway Station
Bexhil Railway Station

The NHS trust in charge of the Conquest is slipping into further financial problems – with management admitting its deficit will be more than £3.5 million than previously predicted.

East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust started the 2013/14 financial year expecting a deficit of £19.4 million and appointed a specialist team in October in an effort to get the its finances under control.

Conquest Hospital, Hastings

Conquest Hospital, Hastings

But it emerged this week in a report to the trust’s board by direct of finance Vanessa Harris that the actual deficit this year will be £23.1 million - £3.7 million more than expected.

It represents a significant challenge to the under-pressure trust – but the picture would be far worse had management not already saved £17.5 million.

And long-term health campaigner Margaret Williams, of Save the Conquest, said she sympathised with the trust and said it was too complicated a situation to purely blame local hospital management.

“This problem is not just something happening in East Sussex,” she said.

“A lot of other trusts are having the same problems.

“I don’t know how to solve it but it isn’t as simple as just getting rid of the management.”

That option had been suggested by Eastbourne’s MP Stephen Lloyd who called for a mass clear-out at manager level of the trust, which also runs the DGH in the Lib Dem’s town.

A spokesman for the trust responded to the increased deficit by saying: “At the beginning of the 2013/14 financial year East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust set a deficit budget of £19.4m to reflect the need to maintain the quality and safety of our services whilst managing the impact of a reduction in our income from commissioners by £20m compared to the year before.

“The actual deficit for this year will be £23.1m despite the Trust having achieved savings of £17.5m - equivalent to five per cent of our income whilst maintaining the delivery of good services to patients and achieving Government performance standards for most of the year.

“What this shows is that although the Trust has made substantial progress in becoming more efficient and effective the East Sussex health economy, like the NHS as a whole, has a huge financial challenge to ensure it can meet the needs of the local population in the future.”

They added the trust had recently confirmed on-going support from NHS England and the NHS Trust Development Authority, saying:

“This will support the local health economy to build on the service improvements already made through the delivery of our clinical strategy and ensure that local services become clinically and financially sustainable.”