PATIENT safety will not be put above balancing the books the chairman of the county’s hospitals has pledged.
Harry Turner, chairman of Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, made the vow as latest figures revealed hospitals across the country have run up nearly £500million worth of debt in the first few months of the year. Regulators have now told hospital bosses to ‘get a grip’ while the Department of Health says delivering high quality services must go hand in hand with balancing the books.
WAHT – which runs the Alexandra Hospital as well as the Worcestershire Royal and Kidderminster Treatment Centre – is currently forecasting a deficit at the end of this financial year of between £12.5million and £15million driven mainly by increasing demand. Attendances at A&E have increased by seven per cent since November last year with more patients with complex conditions arriving at the department. Emergency admissions are higher than last year and the Trust is still struggling to discharge people effectively, with 112 patients in September taking up a bed when they no longer needed to be there.
Demand for operations is also rising, with referrals up by 4.8 per cent, which combined with other factors is affecting the Trust’s ability to carry out planned surgery, losing the organisation money. Additional staffing costs to cope with the added workload has cost an additional £600,000.
But Mr Turner said to close capacity now would result in patients queueing on trolleys in corridors and scores of cancelled operations and what was really needed was a radical new approach, rather than just telling Trusts to get a grip.
“There is no way we would close the extra capacity and put patients at risk and if that gives us a financial challenge then it gives us a financial challenge. Finance and quality are both important, but if you have to pick one of those you pick quality.” he told the Standard.
“There are two elements to this, the things we can control and the things we can’t. Since month one we have been getting a grip. We have strengthened our financial performance committee and we have a rigorous day long meeting towards the end of every month to go through the finances and look at our cost saving schemes and any opportunities there are and ways we can fix these issues.
“There’s been some progress in those areas but not enough to fix the issues not under our control.
“It’s a perfect storm of too many people through the front door, too many people waiting to go out the back door and more people wanting operations.”