HOSPITAL bosses are scratching their heads about how to save another £16million from their budget.
Board members have raised new concerns over the state of the finances at East Lancashire Hosptials NHS Trust (ELHT), which is currently in special measures and has already been forced to deliver savings of about £30million in the last two years.
Having already made the more obvious ‘efficiencies’, finance chiefs said it will take ‘bravery and a redoubling of efforts’ to make further cuts.
Non-executive director David Wharfe said that the trust’s finances in month one of 2014/15 were a ‘cause for concern’ and ‘if the trend was to continue it would give rise to potential problems’.
He added: “The biggest cause of concern is the non-delivery of the cost improvement programme of £16million. There’s a significant element of it that remains unidentified.” Despite NHS funding being ringfenced by the current government, the increasing costs and demand for healthcare have forced every NHS hospital to find huge savings.
Although ELHT’s financial performance has been relatively strong in recent years, a third of other trusts ended the last financial year in deficit.
Russ McLean, chairman of the Pennine Lancashire Patient Voices Group, said: “This is a staggering amount to save in one year and it’s obviously very worrying for patients.”
Jonathan Wood, the trust’s finance director, said: “This is a challenge, particularly in the medical specialties. We’re effectively asking people to innovate in areas that haven’t been innovated in previously. It does take bravery and we need to redouble our efforts.”
One area set to be targeted is the spending on temporary staff, which has increased by 25 per cent since last year, despite efforts to slash the bill.
The trust has recently recruited more than 300 permanent nurses and healthcare assistants, which is expected to help reduce costs on temporary staff.
The Lancashire Telegraph has submitted a Freedom of Information request for the trust’s Cost Improvement Plan, which has not been published.