Hospital bosses in Leeds have held an “extraordinary financial stretch meeting” after being tasked with finding an extra £5.5million of savings before the end of the financial year.
It has emerged that NHS regulators Monitor and the NHS Trust Development Authority (TDA) have asked trusts nationwide to make further cutbacks in a bid to reduce growing health service debts.
Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (LTH), which had forecast a £40.2m deficit by the end of 2015-16 despite its cost cutting, was told to identify 0.5 per cent in extra savings as the NHS faces an “almost unprecedented financial challenge”.
The new measures, which will be discussed at a board meeting today, come on top of LTH’s current plans to deliver £67m worth of cuts from its £1.1bn budget in 2015/16 and leave trust chiefs scrambling to find new ways to reduce its overall deficit to £34.7m.
In a letter to trusts including Leeds, TDA chief executive Bob Alexander called for “urgent action” and asked NHS bosses to revise their financial plans to create a new “stretching but achievable ambition”.
LTH director of finance Tony Whitfield said: “We have undertaken a thorough review of our financial position and considered all opportunities open to us to identify areas where we can make further efficiencies without impacting on the quality of care and services we provide for patients.
“We have provided the Trust Development Authority with an outline of our proposed plans to deliver additional savings which we will continue to discuss with them.”
All NHS trusts, whether they were forecasting a deficit or a profit, were sent letters by either Monitor or the TDA in August urging them to set new efficiency targets – only some trusts were given specific figures to aim at.
The extra savings come after it emerged that NHS trusts in Yorkshire alone have forecasted that debts will exceed £170m by the end of 2015-16. Only three trusts forecasted breaking even or better.
Elsewhere Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust had planned for a £14.8m loss, while Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust was facing a £22m deficit before they were asked to make further savings.
NHS trusts in England reported a total deficit of £822m in 2014-15, compared to just £115m the previous year, and many of the problems were linked to a massive overspend on agency staff. LTH spent £24m on agency staff last year.
An NHS TDA spokeswoman said: “NHS TDA is supporting our NHS trusts to finalise realistic plans for the rest of this financial year. These discussions are still ongoing and we will publish a full position, including the final planned positions for this year, when these discussions have fully concluded.”