February 7, 2020 4.19 pm This story is over 50 months old

Local Democracy Weekly: Is there hope for Lincolnshire’s cash strapped hospitals?

It’s been a tough few years financially

After years under the watchful eye of national regulators, there’s a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel for health bosses grappling with hospital finances.

Both United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust and Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust are in financial special measures, a matter which means they must agree a plan with NHS Improvement.

It’s been a while since both trusts were financially sound. But bosses are now forecasting to meet their deficit targets, which bodes well for an exit from special measures in the future.

NLaG, which runs Scunthorpe and Grimsby hospitals, entered special measures back in 2017.

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It’s since faced significant challenges with its finances, including agency staff and pressure on its departments.

Back in 2018, Dr Peter Reading, chief executive of the trust, predicted that the organisation would exit special measures the following year.

Lincoln County Hospital. Photo: Connor Creaghan for The Lincolnite

But, that prediction fell short after the trust missed its overspend target by £26 million. Dr Reading later conceded it was “unwise” to have set the goal.

Meanwhile, ULHT has been grappling with a similar high demand on its A&Es and staff spending.

But, the trust will be hoping for a repeat of last year’s performance when it met its planned deficit.

The two organisations have had a torrid time with finances over the years.

At the end of 2019, both trusts racked up a combined £55 million deficit.

It’s a lot of money, but it is within the margins for officials to work in as we head towards the end of the final financial quarter.

Former United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust chief executive Jan Sobieraj said financial special measures offers support to health trusts.

At the start of the year, hospital bosses and regulators sat down and agreed deficit targets.

For Lincolnshire, that goal stands at £70.3 million by April. In the north of the county, it’s £25.4 million.

Ultimately, the aim is to to be within the target and push for an exit from special measures.

But, as former ULHT chief executive Jan Sobieraj pointed out before his retirement, the label of special measures can often be misleading because it offers trusts support in difficult times.

This is best demonstrated in Lincolnshire, where ULHT will be able to access further funding of around £28 million if they meet their control target.

However, trusts obviously want to be in the best financial shape so they can offer the best care.

While hospitals in Greater Lincolnshire are by no means out of the woods yet, the goal remains the same.

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