£11m deficit for Lincolnshire hospital trust

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Hospital bosses are facing up to a deficit of £11million for this financial year – despite originally predicting a £1million surplus.

The United Lincolnshire Hospital Trust (ULHT) blames its deficit on the fact it has had to rely on costly agency staff and locum doctors and that its planned savings have not happened.

But Spalding consultant Phil Scarlett - a former director - says the Trust knew of those issues two years ago and was planning ahead to avoid being landed with a big deficit.

Mr Scarlett quit a year ago after a long running spat amid claims he was being bullied out of his position. He had also questioned the appointment of chairman Paul Richardson.

He said: “I resigned because I had no confidence in the board and I guess I have been proved right. I get no pleasure in saying that but it would appear to be the case.”

Mr Scarlett said that during his time on the Trust, Ernst and Young to look at savings for the body - which manages the county’s major hospitals.

He said Trust members knew of the need to save five per cent a year and that’s why they were drawing up a Cost Improvement Plan to stave off the type of debt they have now been hit with.

He said the issues with the staff costs were also flagged up two years ago - so questioned why the deficit came as a surprise to bosses.

He added that the last time the Trust’s deficit was so high the whole board resigned and asked who would be held accountable for the problem.

ULHT says that it is now working to look for savings that will not compromise patient safety.

A spokesman said: “No area of expenditure can avoid being a focus of attention, but our major focus is on management and administration costs, savings from more efficient procurement and improved controls over workforce rostering.

“We are also exploring ways of reducing our spend on agency and locum medical staffing, where we appear to spend more than comparable NHS organisations.”

Mr Scarlett said: “This is absolutely why Ernst and Young were brought in by the directors at the time, and I was one of the people who was instrumental in bringing them in.

“The worst thing you can do in a recession is take out a blunt knife because you end up cutting out the good things if you are not careful.”