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Hospitals trust must make £30m worth of savings before April 2014
12:00pm Thursday 14th March 2013 in News
THE financially-troubled trust which runs hospitals across Morecambe Bay has urged staff to help find savings to prevent it going bust.
The University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust says it needs to find £30m worth of efficiencies before April, 2014.
Chief executive Jackie Daniel and chairman John Cowdall have warned that if the savings strategy fails, the trust could become insolvent.
That would see administrators take control of Westmorland and Furness General Hospitals and the Royal Lancaster Infirmary.
The trust’s 4,894 staff have been told:
* Job losses can’t be ruled out
* Staff sickness levels are running at nearly five per cent when one per cent costs the trust over £1m a year
* Temporary agency staff are costing almost £1m per month
* To switch off computers at night to help save £60,000
The statement moved to quash rumours that the trust would run out of money and be unable to pay salaries.
It said: “The reason this isn’t happening is because we are continuing to take action to prevent it.
“Our staff are our biggest asset. Although we cannot guarantee that there will not be job losses as a result of future changes, we will be working with staff to minimise the impact and provide support.”
However, assurances have been made that patient safety will al-ways come first.
UHMBT also warned that ‘things will not stay as they are because there is less money in the system’.
The warnings come at a time when a group of consultants and GPs are taking a ‘root and branch’ look at where all services are provided across the trust.
That review prompted a public meeting in Barrow, attended by 350 people, where concerns were raised about the future of emergency maternity services and the hosp-ital as a whole.
The trust has spelled out how it intends to tackle the deficit by assigning eight project managers to look at how it can save money to prevent the future being taken ‘out of our hands.’ It has already identified plans to achieve £13.1m of the £30m total.
* Cutting the length of time patients stay in hospital n Increasing day operations to prevent costly overnight stays
* Departments sourcing more products and services at ‘competitive costs’
*n Reducing payments to temporary agency staff covering absences and empty positions
The statement said: “It is quite clear that to do nothing is not an option. If we all fail to ensure that services can be delivered within the money available to us, then the Trust could become insolvent.
“Essentially we would not be able to operate without making a significant loss.”
The news follows a turbulent 2012 for the trust which was marked by high-profile resignations and new staff being recruited to senior management positions.
UHMBT’s cost-cutting measures are a result of making its services safe following a number of failings, plus ongoing 4.5 per cent savings all NHS trusts have to make nationally.
The trust, which has an annual budget of £251m, admits it will have to continue making savings after the £30m deficit is eradi-cated.
South Lakes MP Tim Farron described it as a ‘worrying admission about the current state of the trust.’
This week he and Furness MP John Woodcock joined other trust area MPs to meet with junior health minister Dr Dan Poulter. They asked him to ‘cut the Trust some slack’ if it failed to meet its financial targets by next year.
Mr Farron said: “To make such huge cuts with the backdrop of an independent inquiry and police investigation at Furness General would be dangerous and foolish.
“We don’t want to be in a situation of insolvency where we could end up with very brutal decisions being made by faceless bureaucrats in London.”
Mr Woodcock said: "I will scrutinise efforts to find efficiencies that do not compromise healthcare but it is hard to see how cuts of this magnitude can be made without patients losing out.”
Tim Ellis, regional organ-iser for Unison which represents around 2,000 staff across UHMBT, said: “The NHS is not made better by sacking staff and reducing beds. NHS staff work incredibly hard but are facing overwhelming obstacles as part of these reductions.”
Patients campaign group, South Lakes Health Action, has requested a meeting with Mrs Daniel.
Secretary Alan Price said: “We would be most concerned, as we have been recently over the vascular services issue, if they decide to reduce costs by removing whole medical services or centralising them elsewhere.”
Staff can voice their concerns at meetings over the next few weeks, starting at Furness General today (Thursday) at noon.
Meetings at Westmorland General Hospital, on March 28, and the Royal Lancaster Infirmary, on April 5 will follow.