Hospitals trust is thrown into special measures

Boston's Pilgrim Hospital.
Boston's Pilgrim Hospital.

The NHS trust that manages the county’s three main hospitals has been placed in special measures to deal with its troubled finances by the NHS.

United Lincolnshire Hospital NHS Trust (ULHT), which runs Grantham District, Lincoln County and Boston Pilgrim Hospitals, is reported to have already overspent by £30.7m since April and has predicted a total deficit of £75m by next April.

A director will be appointed by NHS Improvement “to oversee the development of a robust financial recovery plan” to tackle the shortfall, according to the Trust.

Back in April, ULHT was placed back in special measures for its clinical practices after a Care Quality Commission inspection raised concerns about patient safety and care. The CQC previously put it in special measures from October 2103 to March 2015.

Deputy Chief Executive Kevin Turner welcomed the input of a new director designed to help Trusts facing significant and unsustainable deficits to improve their financial performance.

He said first quarter results showed the financial challenge facing the NHS as a whole, but continued: “Our own financial position has deteriorated this year, compared with last, to a point that we face one of the biggest financial challenges in the NHS.”

He added: “This week we have appointed external partners to work with us over the next ten weeks to identify where and how we can make some immediate savings and to set out plans for the future.

“We know that there are many factors which are causing the deficit, which include a lot of our services being less efficient than they could be, staffing gaps that are routinely filled with more expensive temporary (agency) staff, and the challenges of providing services over a large geographical area. Our recovery plans will need to address these factors and more.

“Patient safety remains our top priority and our intention is to ensure that this will be maintained or improved at the same time as reducing cost,” said Mr Turner

Dean Fathers has announced he is to step down as chairman of ULHT at the end of October due to pressures of taking on a new job.

Sarah Fletcher, Chief Executive Officer of Healthwatch Lincolnshire, the local patient watchdog, said the news of financial special measures was “a concern” for residents on top of the CQC placing ULHT in special measures for areas such as, safety and leadership.

“We are pleased that NHS Improvements are working closely with the Trust and that the NHS will be appointing a Turnaround Director to support ULHT Senior Management with the very difficult task of turning the Trust around,” said Mrs Fletcher.

“Patients tell us every day they receive an exceptional level of care from the nurses and doctors across ULHT hospitals, but do feel at times they can tell staff are under enormous amounts of pressure. We are also concerned what impact this all might have on current service delivery and improvements to areas such as outpatients and medical records.”

Healthwatch Lincolnshire recognises that continued use of expensive locums and agency staff is certainly an issue both financially and clinically, however, this problem has been going on a long time and is nothing new to the Trusts management team. Unfortunately, Healthwatch Lincolnshire believes ULHT returning back into special measures suggests that in some areas ‘lessons have not been learnt’ and that there is still a very long way to go.

Mrs Fletcher said that while they recognised everyone is working very hard to improve the situation, maybe the involvement of a Turnaround Director would be an ideal opportunity for the Trust to look at all areas of their Governance and management both clinically and financially to ensure going forward they have the best chance to improve.