Three more NHS trusts are being put into financial special measures by NHS Improvement.
St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust, and University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust will be joining the seven currently in financial special measures.
These three trusts have failed to keep up with their agreed control totals, according to NHS Improvement and between them are forecasting a combined deficit of £145 million.
The financial special measures programme was introduced last year and is designed to help trusts that are struggling to meet their savings plans.
Trusts in financial special measures receive a package of support from NHS Improvement designed to achieve rapid financial improvement, while maintaining or improving their quality.
Feedback from trusts who have been through the process is mixed though, with some senior NHS managers questioning the usefulness of NHS Improvement’s support.
Each trust in financial special measures agrees a recovery plan with NHS Improvement. A Financial Improvement Director is parachuted in by NHS Improvement with experience of turning around large organisations.
Controversially, they’re paid a high salary – of approximately £40,000 per month – which has to be met by the NHS trust concerned.
Jim Mackey, Chief Executive of NHS Improvement, said: “We know patient demand is high and that these are difficult times for the NHS, which is why it is even more important that NHS trusts keep a strong grip on their finances. We know that trusts meeting their financial plans also provide better quality services to patients.
“Financial special measures has already saved the NHS around £100m in 2016/17. The three trusts being put into financial special measures are not on course to meet their savings targets and financial special measures will be an effective way of supporting them to significantly improve.”
NHS Improvement claims it has helped trusts in the programme ensure that their financial systems and controls operate effectively, so that money isn’t being spent without proper checks and controls – including, for example, in the authorisation of agency and locum spend.
It says the programme helps improve efficiency and productivity, including sharing lessons from higher performing trusts.
It claims to improve the way trusts manage their workforce and plan rotas to use their permanent staff most effectively and reduce temporary staff.
The trusts already in Financial Special Measures include Barts Health NHS Trust; Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust; East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust; East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust; Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust; Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust; and North Bristol NHS Trust.
Croydon Health Services NHS Trust and Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trusts, which went into financial special measures as part of the first wave in July 2016 exited the regime in February 2017.
Niall Dickson, the chief executive of the NHS Confederation, commented: “This is yet more evidence that NHS organisations are working flat-out to sustain their services but that finances are incredibly tight. There is a real danger that vital efforts to transform care and make it more sustainable will be derailed because it takes all our effort to maintain current care and balance the books.
“In the Budget the Government showed it is listening to calls for more support for transformation and, crucially, for social care – however financial pressure remains extreme.
“There is now a growing recognition that money alone will not solve the problem and that the health and care system needs to be redesigned, as it is not fit-for-purpose and it is time we all admitted it.”