Hospitals in Leeds are to clamp down on the use of bank nurses and private treatment to keep finances under control.
Managers at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust have agreed the measures after overspending and losing funding.
They hoped to end the year with £10m in the bank – necessary as in future they will apply for gold-standard Foundation Trust status. But they have now agreed to aim for a £5m surplus by next March.
Speaking at a hospital board meeting, finance director Neil Chapman told colleagues: “We are going to have to reduce spending in the next half of the year to solve this problem.
“One of the areas we are going to target is reducing the use of bank and agency staff, which is well up on last year despite the fact that we have got the same number of staff doing the same amount of activity.”
Leeds hospitals are trying to find savings of £24m this year.
Mr Chapman said that five months into the financial year, the financial position was £6.2m over planned levels – a figure which, if carried on unchecked, would rise to £15m by the end of the year.
“Instead of a £10m surplus, we would have a £5m deficit and that’s clearly not where we would want to be,” he said.
He said £5m of the issue was due to factors out of their control, where promised funding had then not materialised.
But the other £10m was largely due to overspending.
As well as reducing the numbers of bank nurses and agency doctors being used, he said they would also have to stop sending so many patients for private treatment in order to meet waiting time targets.
He added that they must also cut spending on things other than pay, such as equipment.
“We believe it is possible to find savings to compensate for the £5m that is out of our control,” Mr Chapman said.
Non-executive director Clare Morrow said she would be concerned if much of the savings were expected to come from cutting staff costs, given that problems with patient care were picked up by a health watchdog earlier this year.
Mr Chapman agreed that they couldn’t afford to take risks with that and they were targeting areas which should not be spending so much on bank and agency staff.