Lincolnshire hospitals trust chiefs play down £75 million deficit predictions

The trust which runs Lincolnshire’s hospitals has said that the organisation is forecast to run a deficit of only £40.3 million, compared to the possible £75 million shortfall it currently faces.

As previously reported, United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust (ULHT) recorded a deficit of £6.291 million for April 2015.

If this figure was repeated, the trust would be left with a £75 million deficit by the end of the financial year.

However, at a Lincolnshire County Council Health Scrutiny Committee meeting on June 11, ULHT’s Deputy Chief Executive Kevin Turner and Director of Finance David Pratt said that they were “confident” of meeting the projected deficit target of £40.3 million for 2015-2016.

The £40.3 million figure would consist of an underlying deficit of £25 million carried over from the previous year, plus a £9 million reduction in funding from NHS commissioning groups, additional safe nurse staffing costs and the mandatory reinstatement of a £2.2 million contingency budget.

The trust also revealed that it was short of 200 registered nurses across the county, with a recruitment drive underway to increase the number of permanent staff.

In addition, only three of the 12 A&E consultancy posts in the county are currently filled by permanently employed staff, with locums used for the remainder.

Director of Finance David Pratt said: “While that proportion of locums is not ideal, other organisations in the NHS are feeling the same pressures. But we’ve got to look at how to make the packages for consultants more attractive, both in terms of recruitment and retaining existing staff in the county.

“Extensive recruitment of nurses has been going on and we’ve secured 90 additional nurses from the university here. We have permanently rolling adverts, we go to recruitment fairs up and down the country and we’re looking at both attracting nurses who have previously worked in the NHS and a wider international recruitment campaign.

“I’m hopeful that we”ll start to see some improvement over the summer months and then we’ll speak to partners about specific arrangements to put in during the winter to enable us to deal with the typical increases in emergencies and make sure the picture in April is proven to be a one-off.”

Chairman of the committee, Councillor Christine Talbot, added: “The worrying statistic for me is just the three permanent A&E consultants that are employed which means that the locum bill has rocketed. We need to grow and retain our own staff while recruiting from elsewhere.

“If the deficit in May, June, July and August continues to escalate like it has in April, then it’s going to be a pretty bleak picture by the autumn.

“It would be easy to criticise bearing in mind the deficit in April but we now have to just give them the opportunity to make progress before they return to speak to us in September .”