Mr Micawber would not be impressed by NHS trust

Picture: Shutterstock

BLAISE TAPP: Even in the 21st century, you can't beat old-fashioned playtime

It was that famous son of Portsmouth, Charles Dickens, who summed it up best.

In his novel David Copperfield, he had his financially prudent character Mr Micawber saying: 'Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds, nought and six, result misery.'

It's become known as the Micawber Principle, which states that we should live within our means and that failure to do so is the beginning of a slippery financial slope.

We can only presume that members of the Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust are not familiar with this dictum. Today, we reveal how the city's hospitals are facing a multi-million-pound cash crisis as the trust overspends by 700,000 a month.

The trust, which runs Queen Alexandra Hospital and St Mary's Hospital, is set to end the financial year with a deficit of 8m. Savings have been made, but it is still very much in the red and the situation is getting worse.

The government has ordered efficiency savings in the NHS of 20bn by 2014. The trust's share of that for this financial year is 37m. It has accounted for 31m by various measures, but says it is still 6m short.

How has this happened? In our own households, we know that spending more than comes in each month is going to lead to problems. Businesses too know only too well that they must keep a close eye on balance sheets.

It's time the health service stopped lurching from one financial crisis to the next. Instead of assuming the taxpayer should foot the bill, other avenues must be explored. A good example of that was Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt's recent proposal that private pharmaceutical companies be allowed to fund a G5-type service to replace the closed end-of-life care ward at QA.

The firms have offered money and resources, yet trust chief executive Ursula Ward has not approved the plan. But if it meant avoiding debt, Mr Micawber would be all in favour of such initiatives.

And the trust should be too.